WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg woman has teamed up with the city’s police force to initiate a hotline that allows people to report animal abuse.
Yvonne Russell says she was inspired to start up Paw Tipsters after hearing many stories of animal abuse.
The service will operate in conjunction with Winnipeg Crime Stoppers and like that program, it will offer rewards in cases that lead to conviction and will guarantee anonymity.
Russell is responsible for fundraising to provide the rewards, which can be as much as $2,000.
Winnipeg police Sgt. Tom MacKay says linking with Paw Tipsters is an extension of what Crime Stoppers does best.
He says he can’t predict if the service will have a dramatic effect on the number of calls police get, but he says it will increase exposure of the issue of animal cruelty.
In the past week, three incidents of alleged animal cruelty have made headlines: a puppy thrown from a van, a Pomeranian attacked with a hockey stick and a kitten struck with a hammer. Such acts shake Russell.
“It literally stays with me for weeks,” she said. “I have always felt passionate about animals.”
Russell said puppy mills and dogfighting rings are the biggest problems, and she believes dogfighting is on the rise.
“People’s dogs are stolen out of their yards and used as bait dogs,” used to test a dog’s fighting instinct, Russell said.
Bill McDonald, executive director of the Winnipeg Humane Society, said having a tip line for animal cruelty is a good idea.
“The more mechanisms we have to find these acts the better it will be. It can be educational to the public, too.”
McDonald said he knows of no incidents of organized dogfighting in the city or province, but they have received complaints about puppy mills.
“They are hidden away and we only hear of them when a concerned member of the public calls us,” he said. “The only way we find these places is if we are tipped off.”