Updated: Dec 5, 2022
On 2/24/21, The Animal Rights Committee NLGNYC conducted a zoom meeting entitled ‘Desmond’s Law: Past, Present, Future. This meeting was held to discuss Connecticut’s Desmond’s Law's impact on the number of arrests for animal cruelty and the outcome of those prosecutions. The panel consisted of 13 people, including representatives from Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. Our own Robin “Zilla” Cannamela was a panel member. There were approximately 195 attendees. Below is the presentation made by Zilla. This was a fantastic venue to give our lawmakers a first-hand account of the impact Desmond’s Army has made.
Thank you, Tamara for putting this wonderful panel together. I am honored to be a part of it.
I am Robin “Zilla” Cannamela, co-founder and President of Desmond’s Army Animal Law Advocates. We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization made up of all volunteers.
In addition to tracking animal cruelty cases, notifying approved advocates of cases and attending court throughout CT, as well as educating the public on the connection between animal cruelty and domestic and social violence, we also:
Provide municipalities funding for necropsies or DNA results that will aid in the prosecution of animal cruelty cases
Help pay for vetting for victims of animal abuse with imminent cruelty charges
Provide reward funds leading to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators of animal cruelty
Provide a scholarship for exemplary law students who participate as an advocate using Desmond’s Law.
Desmond’s Army started as Justice for Desmond in 2012 with Micah Rapini at the helm. Desmond was a boxer/pit mix who was a victim of Domestic Violence. Alex Wullaert used Desmond for revenge in retaliation for his pregnant girlfriend leaving him. Wullaert used Desmond as his personal punching bag, starving, torturing and eventually choking Desmond to death.
At Wullaert’s sentencing, he was given no more than a slap on the wrist known as accelerated rehabilitation, AR. His record was expunged after 2 years.
At that point, Justice for Desmond was deflated and disbanded. Christine Kiernan put a call into then State Representative Diana Urban not long after with an idea regarding a law that might advocate for animal victims of cruelty. Diana got to work immediately!
Over the next few years, there were a handful of cases. In 2016 – the third year of Desmond’s Law going through legislation and a case of 2 hanged dogs in Bristol, Ct- led to the decision to reorganize as Desmond’s Army. I called on original members Christine Kiernan and Cheryl Valukevich, saying it was time to go forward as Desmond’s Army.
We regrouped, designed our signature purple shirts, had signs made and instilled a code of conduct for court.
In 2018 it was Linda Pleva, our VP and Treasurer, Candace Bouchard, our VP and Secretary, and myself who took the next step and brought Desmond’s Army Animal Law Advocates to the status of a 501c3 organization. With over 30 dedicated and tirelessly hard working volunteers we have achieved award-winning status.
With the celebrated passing and enactment of Desmond’s Law in Oct of 2016 and Desmond’s Army code of conduct, Desmond’s Army has gained the respect of courts. Prosecutors and Judges alike acknowledge our quiet yet powerful presence.
John Frascatore, our court reporter, has been attending animal cruelty cases for over 20 years. He recently had been asked by a prosecutor and a Judge on separate occasions to please step into the courtroom for the hearing. This is during our Covid climate. He remarked, “ who would have ever thought we would see this?” John’s wealth of experience is not to be dismissed.
In the Covid climate with courts opening back up, we sent an email to the Chief Marshall stating we would like to send 2 members into the courthouse if public attendance was permitted. The remainder of us would stay outside the courthouse. Prior to Covid, the bench’s view would be a sea of purple in the audience. Again I stress the importance of respect for the court, and we have been welcomed back with plenty of nods and smiles.
IN KEEPING TRACK of the majority of CT animal cruelty cases, we have logged 185 cases since 2016. Prior to Desmond’s Law and Desmond’s Army, we only saw a handful of cases a year that were heard in court – most only to be nolled or awarded AR
OUR EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE shows Desmond’s Law, combined with our presence, makes a remarkable difference in the number of arrests, cases heard, and appropriate sentencing.
LENIENCY RESULTS IN RECIDIVISM
That being said, we realize not all cruelty cases should result in jail time. However, the sentence must fit the crime.
We are seeing the natural occurrence of AR being denied in case after case. It was just 2 weeks ago in 3 separate courts where 2 cases were denied, and one is being considered for denial. It is being acknowledged by the courts these cases are too severe for AR, resulting in an expunged record.
Desmond’s Army Animal Law Advocates, with our dear friend and board advisor Diana Urban along with Professor Jessica Rubin, strive to see Desmond’s Law in some form adopted across the country by all states.
Desmond’s Army Animal Law Advocates believe that one's treatment of animals is closely associated with the treatment of fellow humans. We are and always will be a voice for the voiceless.
For more information, please visit DesmondsArmy.org