Deputy takes a bite out of pet abuse crime

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

She turned her large brown eyes and looked at him quizzically. She'd been hurt and abandoned before and it might take awhile for her to be trusting.

But once comfortable, she lightly sniffed and gently licked his chin, while the other dogs in the cages at the Siouxland Humane Society barked for equal attention.

"I can't take her," Todd Trobaugh insisted as he set the cocker spaniel down and nudged her back into her cage. "I've got enough dogs already."

Trobaugh may have his limit on dogs, but not his fill of animal rights.

The sheriff's deputy volunteers at the Humane Society investigating cases of neglect and abuse cases. He became interested in the Humane Society after he saw animal complaints and sometimes their lack of adequate investigation.

Trobaugh felt motivated to do something about properly investigating the abuses and neglect cases and contacted the shelter.

"I called and asked if I could volunteer on these types of cases," he recalled. "I told them, with my law enforcement background, I wanted to make sure that if there was a complaint, it was handled correctly."

"He gave us an offer we'd been hoping for," said Jerry Dominicak, executive director of the shelter.

Trobaugh comes by his affection for animals naturally. When he was an infant, his parents adopted a dog from the shelter, a poodle mix named Tippy, that grew up with him for 19 years. Pets have always been members of his family.

Trobaugh's volunteer capacity at the shelter is one of making sure any complaints are researched and that animals are being treated in a humane way. He offers his law enforcement experience on behalf of the shelter to make sure that happens.

"I look at weight and if the animal is skin and bones," he said. "Beyond that I'm looking to see if the animal has food, water and shelter, things that are required by law for a dog owner to provide. I also look for any injuries."

Trobaugh didn't have to think long to recall the most disheartening case of animal abuse he had encountered. He cited the case where 87 animals were taken from a rural Akron home in 2004, resulting in the owner being sentenced to one year of probation, including a mental health evaluation, and to own no more than five dogs and four cats. The owner also had to pay restitution of $11,788 for costs associated with handling the animals.

"The animals were fenced in and allowed to just run around in the field," Trobaugh said. "It was clear many of them had been fighting each other. Most were skinny and had no shelter."

When the search of the property took place, 40 dogs, 16 cats, 14 chickens, seven ducks, four goats, two donkeys, two short-tailed monkeys, a rabbit and a pot-bellied goat were taken. Many of the animals were turned over to the Siouxland Humane Society and soon found homes, Dominicak said.

Trobaugh has been a county deputy in northwest Iowa for seven years and in law enforcement for 17 years. Currently assigned to the K9 unit, Trobaugh and his partner, Rudy, have been together for four years. Trobaugh recently acquired a puppy, Junior, which he is also training for K9 duties.

Trobaugh said that volunteers are always needed at the shelter, but his other wish is to see a full-time paid investigator at the shelter. That person would have full knowledge of laws and ordinances of animal neglect and authority to fully investigate and go for prosecutions as needed.

"We typically call Todd on two to five cases per month, depending on the calls," said Dominicak. "We receive anywhere from 60 to 100 calls a year."

But it isn't all serious stuff for Trobaugh, who admitted to being "dogged" by friends who know of his Humane Society relationship.

"I've heard them all," he said with a huge grin. "Dog days. Leading a dog's life. Doggone it."

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