A class of their own: Phoenix only city with police dept. with animal investigations unit

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- The Phoenix Police Department has two detectives dedicated to solving animal crimes, and it's the only police department in the Valley metro area that has an animal investigations unit. These pet detectives are saving lives, as well as jailing some of the city's worst animal abusers.

In one case, the dog was hit by a car and the owner was ordered to get it checked out.

"I lose a lot of sleep when it comes to these cases. I was able to make the arrest in December 2017, and the owner spent 45 days in," said Heather Krimm, Animal Cruelty investigator with the Phoenix Police Department.

Krimm can get emotional when it comes to defenseless animals. One case that gets her choked up is the case involving Baby.

"She's just severely emaciated," said Krimm. "She was so scared. She just urinates."

The Yellow Lab was discovered at a rescue. She was barely able to stand, her ribs were visible, and she was clearly sick and not getting medical care. The rescue owner, Rebekah Fox-Laverty, was convicted of animal cruelty in the case and sentenced to jail.

"I remember them saying it was one of the worst cases they ever saw," said Krimm.

Krimm and one other detective make up the Phoenix Police Department's Animal Crimes Unit, and they are the police department in the valley that has dedicated detectives who work alongside investigators with the Arizona Humane Society.

"There are those times people won't let us inside to see the things we need to see, and that's why we need to get search warrants sometimes to get into those houses," said Mark Smith, an Animal Cruelty investigator with the Arizona humane Society.

They rely on witnesses or neighbors to report animal abuse or neglect when they see it.

"Animals are voiceless children and elderly people," said Krimm. "We need to all step up and be the voice to help them."

There is an element of danger to the job, when alleged animal abusers don't want to get caught. Smith was nearly run over by a fleeing suspect a couple of years ago. The Humane Society got several calls of a man continuously beating his dog, and the suspect denied everything. Smith, however, saw the injuries with his own eyes.

"I kind of blame myself. I got tunnel vision the second I saw her. She had welts on her head. She had one broken leg stuck straight out. Her other leg had been broken as well. She was using it, so I just leashed her up at that moment. He calmly said 'OK', he calmly got down to pet her. Then, he pulled the leash off and picked her up and plowed into me to try and get away. He just went in grabbed his other dog and put it in the car and sped off, in the process, clipped me with his car." said Smith.

Days later, Krimm arrested James Brandon Davis, who was later sentenced to probation for animal cruelty. The dog, "Amber", went into foster care.

"Injuries to the top of her head, open wounds, and you could just tell her spirit was broken," said Krimm.

A medical evaluation and x-rays showed Davis had broken both of Amber's hind legs. One of them didn't heal properly, and had to be amputated. A year later, amber was adopted, and Krimm re-united with her. Amber immediately recognized the detective who helped save her life. She now looks like a different dog, with a new name and a new owner. The scars on her head are barely visible.

"I hope she doesn't remember what she went through, because it was horrible," said Krimm.

In the end, Krimm hopes to not only save animals from certain harm or death. She also hopes the efforts of the two Phoenix Police pet detectives will also spare humans from the hands of abusers.

"It starts with animals, goes on to children," said Krimm. "There is that connection."

Krimm is also fond of cats. She adopted a litter of five newborn kittens who were thrown in a dumpster.