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PR Exaggerated Ritual Abuse of Animals at Halloween Reality in S. Arizona

Humane Society of Southern Arizona



Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona Recognizes
National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

For Release On:
October 22, 2001
Page 1 of 2

Contact information regarding this public awareness campaign:
Marsh Myers or Jami McDowell, Humane Society of Southern Arizona:
520) 321-3704, Ext. 125 or 141

Regarding law enforcement and prosecution information:
Det. Mike Duffey, Pima County Sheriff’s Department: (520) 741-4751
Laura Brynwood or Pat Mehrhoff, City of Tucson Attorney’s Office: 791-5492, Ext. 1510 or 1515
Kathleen Mayer or Brad Roach, Pima County Attorneys Office: (520) 740-5671 or 740-5664

Regarding domestic violence issues:
Rebecca Edmonds, Governor’s Commission on Domestic Violence: (520) 906-9961

Regarding ritualistic abuse of animals:
Sgt. Dennis Downing, Pima Animal Control Center: (520) 743-7550

Tucson– It’s a time for treats; it’s a time for tricks. If you’re an animal living in southern Arizona, however, the Halloween season can mean mostly tricks. Aside from the usual Halloween mischief that may affect both domesticated and wild animals, certain acts of ritual abuse may occur during this time as well. But police warn that not everything may be as is seems.

“Southern Arizona has a large Wiccan [witch] population and other people who practice non-traditional religions,” said Sgt. Dennis Downing, a field supervisor with the Pima Animal Control Center. “Often, the harmless practices of these faiths are misconstrued and neighbors become convinced that every missing dog or cat on the block are the victims of Satanism.”

A type of Satanist known as a “dabbler” does present a real threat to animals, however. “Dabblers” are generally young men and women who practice their own brand of Satanism, and may victimize animals not as part of a religious ceremony but rather for the emotional high that the act of torture and killing will afford them. If animal abductions and ritualistic mutilations have been reported, it is most likely the work of a “dabbler.”

In southern Arizona, law enforcement often suspect that “dabblers” are present if animal mutilations are found in close proximity with other telltale signs – candle drippings, strange symbols, non-discernable alphabets, vandalized religious artifacts, etc. One of the most recent animal cruelty cases to have ritualistic overtones were the horse mutilations at the Fred Fry Stables on August 9, 2000. Tucson Police and Pima County Sheriff’s Department personnel noticed strange symbols cut into the skin of some mutilated horses. James Hart and Syljva King, both convicted in March 2001 of the crimes, reportedly told authorities that they practiced their own version of Satanism.

Although it is unlikely that a pet owner will encounter a “dabbler,” the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona suggests the following safety tips for the Halloween season:

  • Keep your animals close to home – preferably inside your house and yard – before and during Halloween.
  • Turn on your outside lights after dark and leave them on. This will provide greater visibility of your house and yard to neighbors or police.
  • Keep chocolate and candy away from your pets. Chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs and they can choke on candy wrappers and cellophane.
  • Coordinate with your neighborhood association, Neighborhood Watch Program, and the local police and Animal Control to stay informed on the rise in any pet abductions or related activities including vandalism, break-ins, etc.
  • Make sure all your dogs are licensed, and all dogs and cats are wearing a collar and tags and preferably have an identifying microchip.
  • Keep an eye on livestock – be aware of unfamiliar persons and keep a video camera accessible to document irregular behavior.
  • Have a current photo of your pet available in case it disappears.

Take notice of individuals engaging in any suspicious behavior, such as:

  • Looking over walls and fences into yards where pets are housed.
  • People attempting to buy or sell animals on the street or in parking lots.
  • Individuals, especially teens or young adults, displaying materials that have some form of occult meaning. This could include books, jewelry, t-shirts, or symbols marked on walls, sidewalks, etc.
  • Individuals who brag about or seem to have some kind of firsthand knowledge about occult or ritualistic activities with animals.
  • The unexplained appearance of occult-related graffiti, such as pentagrams or indecipherable writing.
  • The unexplained appearance of animal remains (other than roadkill, for example).

If you notice any suspicious behavior, please contact the following organizations immediately:

  • Emergencies Only: 911

  • Pima Animal Control Center: (520) 743-7550

  • Tucson Police Department: (520) 791-4444

  • Pima County Sheriff’s Department: (520) 741-4600

  • South Tucson Police Department: (520) 622-0655

Additional information on ACT’s campaign is available by contacting the Humane Society at 321-3704, Ext. 125 or 141 or visiting the ACT website at

Courtesy of

3450 N Kelvin Blvd
Tucson, Arizona 85716
Shelter Phone: (520) 327-6088

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