Officer Louis Naes, a nine-year veteran of the St. Louis Police Department, has become the department's first animal abuse investigator and a member of the new Animal Abuse Task Force. It includes the circuit attorney's office, mayor's office, the health department, and Stray Rescue of St. Louis.

Designating a police officer for animal abuse cases is somewhat rare across the country, and comes at a time when St. Louis police are shifting officers to address a 19% increase in aggravated assaults with firearms. But some law enforcement officials think it pays off in terms of human — as well as animal — victims.

"There is a direct relationship to animal crimes and domestic violence abusers, who think of their victims as an object," said Officer Kim Lormans of the Los Angeles police, which already has five animal abuse investigators. "They start with the family pet and ... use it as a tool to manipulate and control. If that's not stopped and investigated, it will get higher and higher then on to the kids and spouse."

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