DALLAS (original story posted by CBSDFW.COM) – The abused animal situation in Dallas County is acute enough that commissioners are thinking about creating a special unit within the District Attorney’s office specifically to prosecute animal abuse cases.

“This year, through November 28, there were more than 2,841 reports to the city of Dallas alone about animal cruelty,” Dr. Elba Garcia told her colleagues, and speculated that there are many more county wide.

Public speakers cautioned that animal abuse was no minor thing and was often a gateway practice to larger crimes. “The FBI has shown that every serial killer in the United States started off abusing animals,” Skip Timble of the Texas Humane Legislation Network told the Commissioners Court.

But it would cost 200-thousand dollars to get the unit off the ground. So Safer Dallas, Better Dallas began private fund raising. Founder Charles Terrell told CBS 11 News, “We’ve got to get momentum going, first of all, and the money gives you momentum.”

He praised the DA’s office for its planning so far, including a full-time prosecutor and investigator. “I think they’ve done a marvelous job of planning for this internally, and we’ve got to do a marvelous job of motivating people to give.” It received 40-thousand dollars in seed money from outgoing commissioner Maurine Dickey and her husband Roland, of Dickey’s Barbecue.

David Alex would head the 2-person unit. He says it’s more than animals; child abusers often torture family pets to keep the child in fear. “We see cases all the time where the abuser will say, ‘Look and see what happens to you if you talk.’ They’ll abuse the dog in front of the child in order to keep them silent.” Alex adds, “The victim will be so afraid to leave the abuser because they don’t want to leave the family pet there with the abuser.

And they stay for years and years in this abuse relationship because of the animal.” Several animal rescue groups were on hand as the check was presented to Safer Dallas, Better Dallas. Among them Terry Ottley of Gabby’s Sanctuary ARK in Cedar Hill, a rescue group for dogs and cats, but especially horses, including a new rescue, Oscar. “A lot of them are abused, as you can see Oscar is a little bit underweight at 8 months but a little TLC will do wonders for him.”

Some were seriously neglected. One horse came to her 475 pounds underweight, she said. Several horses sport dots of aluminum spray that keeps flies off exposed skin of their mottled hides Ms. Ottley has about 20 horses here and says about half of them come from abusive situations. “We lost a horse about two months ago that if they’d just had the tetanus shot he would’ve survived but he ended up with lockjaw.” She likes the idea of a central clearing house to cut through the red tape of overlapping municipal rules agencies. “If it causes us not to have to go through all those levels to get an immediate release of abused animals, then I think this is going to be a fantastic operation,” she said.

Formal commissioners court approval is set for next week, but the unit will not be created until the $200,000 in donations is reached. Donations to Dallas County Animal Cruelty Unit can be accepted [ HERE ]