Desmond's Army Unleashed On Abusers

January 16, 2018

Animal law advocates known as Desmond’s Army were galvanized by several recent cases of animal abuse, growing from 20 members to over 700. In this news article published by the Bristol Press on Jan. 14, Reporter Brian M. Johnson writes about the group founded by Zilla Monstella and Christine Kiernan,


By BRIAN M. JOHNSON

Bristol Press

Animal law advocates known as Desmond’s Army were galvanized by several recent cases of animal abuse, growing from 20 members to over 700.

The group was founded by Zilla Monstella and Christine Kiernan, when they sought a conviction for the killing of a boxer/pit bull mix named Desmond, which was adopted from a New Haven shelter.

“Desmond was adopted out to what seemed to be a lovely family, then there was a breakup and his owner brought him back to the shelter,” said Monstella. When the ex-boyfriend found out the dog was returned to the shelter, Monstella said, “in retaliation, he adopted Desmond, starved and abused him. In March 2012 they found his body in a trash bag in the woods. A necropsy revealed that his stomach was empty except for toilet paper and trash bags. Several of his ribs had been broken and he was strangled.”

The Desmond case ultimately resulted in the creation of Desmond’s Law - a state program in which a group of lawyers and University of Connecticut law students take up abuse cases pro-bono and work to convict offenders. Additionally, in February 2016, the federal government declared animal abuse a felony offense. Desmond’s Army works closely with UConn Professor Jessica Rubin and state Rep. Diana Urban, D-Stonington, who led the passage of Desmond's Law.

After the sentencing in Desmond’s case, the group disbanded for a while. However, they were re-energized and grew tremendously after a Bristol woman, Veronica Reyes, hung her two dogs from a tree. Reyes was sentenced in May of 2016 to five years in prison.

“We have been involved in 78 cases, 29 of which are active,” said Monstella. “Eighteen of them are using Desmond’s Law and two of them are currently pending. Our goal is to see that people are held accountable in these cases. We would also like to see Desmond’s Law established nationwide. Thanks to Desmond’s Law, animal control officers now have the tools and support they need in the legal system. Everyone is working together in a way that was totally unprecedented. Arrests can be made and cases will actually go somewhere instead of abusers getting charged with a simple misdemeanor.”

Desmond’s Army works to raise awareness of what Monstella calls the “cycle of violence” with animal abusers.

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