BY: JOAN ALLEN
It was a lucky day for pets and police officers everywhere when a stray dog appeared at Adam Lippe’s home in Sparks, MD. Lippe, the Assistant State’s Attorney for the Office of the State’s Attorney in Baltimore County, heads the Economic Crimes Unit, and is prosecutor for and head of the Animal Abuse Unit. “I’ve won 100% of the cases against animal abusers that I’ve prosecuted, and I don’t have any problem getting people arrested.” Lippe’s passion for animals, giving back to the community, and just plain old serendipity, was the impetus for creating the Love Leads Project.
“About four years ago, my son, Braun, and I were outside of our home and spotted a dog. The dog didn’t have a collar. So, I reported it and when the officer arrived, she didn’t have a rope or a leash, so I gave her a leash. She was able to secure the dog and bring it to safety.” Then a lightbulb flashed in Lippe’s brain. “I thought, wow, providing free leashes for officers would be a great service project for Braun and me, and that was how the Love Leads Project came about,” says Lippe.
His son, Braun, 17, explains, “My dad and I wanted to do something new and with his work at the Animal Abuse Unit, it kind of took off from there. “At first, we made 10 leashes and gave some to close friends; then we reached out to police officers, and to precincts around the country. Now every single precinct in Maryland has them.
Braun explains, “Having a lead in their cars serves as a reminder that officers have a means to secure the animal and take it to a shelter.” Lippe says he uses 10 feet of rope to make the leashes at $1.00 a foot. “With the request for leashes expanding every day, I knew I would need help from the community to help cover rope, connectors and screws, and shipping.”
April Doherty, who works side by side with Lippe, crusading against animal cruelty in the Animal Abuse Unit, is a paralegal in the Felony Review Unit and lead investigator of the Animal Abuse Unit at the Office of the State’s Attorney in Baltimore County, and co-founder of the Love Leads Project. She is also a law enforcement trainer for the Humane Society of the United States, in her spare time, she is studying for an M.S. in veterinary forensic medicine.
“At first, we were purchasing leashes from random places and bringing them to the police,” says Doherty. “Because I was a climber, I reached out to Earth Treks climbing centers in Columbia, MD and Crystal City, VA, and they offered to donate used climbing rope. Adam came up with the creation of the leash and how to make them.
When Lippe mentioned the project to Adriane Watson, former director of marketing for Pet+ER in Towson, she donated a bench and an electrical rope cutter and provided the electrical conduit connectors.Lippe says, “Pet+ER promotes the free leashes and provides the metal connectors so I can screw the ropes together. There are two connectors on each end, one for the loop and one for the lead.”
Lippe also sought help from Caroline Griffin, co-founder of the Show Your Soft Side Anti-Cruelty Campaign. Griffin, who calls herself a recovered attorney, has spent the last 10 years working full-time on animal protection issues.
Griffin says, “Show Your Soft Side works very closely with Adam and April (whom she affectionately calls the A-Team). They are one of the most effective animal abuse units in the country. We think the Love Leads Project has it all and it reaffirms that we can accomplish much more by working together.“When the two of them started the Love Leads Project, we thought so highly of the initiative, we wanted to help them. So, when they get a request from a police department we cover the shipping costs. It costs one dollar a leash to ship.
“Love leads is a unique collaboration dedicated to saving dogs and preventing animal abuse and neglect,” says Griffin. “What began as a local service project has turned into a national effort providing first responders, free of charge, the tools necessary to humanely respond to dog encounters.”
The Love Leads Project has also helped the Humane Society of Grand Bahama, beginning in late 2018, when April agreed to conduct an animal cruelty training for their officers. “April got on a plane and delivered a suitcase brimming with Love Leads to the shelter, as staff and volunteers were walking 160 dogs twice daily with nylon leashes.” The Love Leads Project recently shipped another 100 leashes following the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, to assist the shelter in reuniting lost dogs with their owners.
Griffin says, “And locally, April recently delivered Love Leads to Baltimore City Police Sergeant Hillary Wheeler, who is very pro-active in responding to animal cruelty. In the aftermath of the Freddie Gray riots in the Western District, Sgt. Wheeler gathered and delivered dog and cat food for pets in need.”
Sergeant Wheeler, who appears in the 2019 Show Your Soft Side calendar, recalls her experiences while she served time as a patrol officer. She would often respond to calls for service, especially elderly residents of that district who were on a fixed income, who were regularly forced to decide whether to feed themselves or their pets. Wheeler reached out to Show Your Soft Side and carried their donations of pet food in her patrol car.
Wheeler also recalls when she and Officer Natasha Hill were called to the scene of a building collapse in the Western District in April of 2015. “When we arrived, we found the front of a historic row home buckling. Officer Hill and I went upstairs and realized someone lived in the house. A child’s room, bed made, filled with toys, had been freshly painted blue.
“We checked the basement and the steps were broken,” Wheeler says. “We saw a small pittie at the bottom of the stairs who was very glad to see us. I carefully climbed down and passed the dog up to Hill, who took her so I could climb back out. Hill carried her out of the building. This was before the Love Leads Project and we didn’t have a way to secure her, so Hill created a temporary leash out of crime scene tape! I sent Hill to get food and water for the dog.”
The story had a happy ending; the renter came back for the family pet. “He came up to me and said that they didn’t allow dogs at his mother’s place, where he had just dropped off what he could get out of the house,” says Wheeler. “The guy was just trying to make ends meet. He had saved enough money for paint for the kid’s room.
“I worked out with Animal Control that they would hold her until he got suitable housing. I took out my credit card and paid for her to get spade, microchipped and vaccinated with the agreement that he would stay up to date on her shots.” Wheeler says, “April just delivered our first batch of Love Leads and ultimately, it would be great to expand the program.
“One of the benefits of keeping Love Leads in patrol cars is to remind officers that animals are victims, too. There is a link between child abuse, elder abuse, and domestic violence, so we keep our eyes out for signs in homes.,” says Wheeler.
“You have animal abuse in 50% of homes where you have domestic violence. If a family member is abused and has a pet, the perpetrator may abuse the pet, the one source of comfort the person has. It’s cyclical, so if you can reduce animal abuse, ultimately you can reduce violence overall.”
Lifelong dog lover Officer Tim Bull of Dundalk Precinct 12, tells a heart-warming story where he and his wife were able to adopt two of the dogs he found and rescued. “I received an animal cruelty complaint about Biscuit, a German shepherd/collie mix. I found him chained up on concrete patio with no water or food. He was so skinny you could see his ribs. I called Animal Control. I had to walk him out with the chain he was chained up with. I really could have used a Love Lead back then!
“Later I made contact with the owners and learned they were beating him. The owners signed a release form to release the dog to Animal Control. The husband and wife were prosecuted and ended up going to court. The charges were dropped for the wife and the husband plead guilty to animal He ended up getting 10 days in jail and probation where he couldn’t have any animals.
“My wife and I really wanted to adopt Biscuit but we had nowhere to keep him,” says Bull. We were living in an apartment while we were waiting for our new house to come through, so he lived at my parents’ house the first two months. Once we closed on our house, he moved in with us. It took work, but he’s a great dog now. He really gets along with my 3-year-old daughter, and one-year-old son.
By the time Officer Bull got a call about an aggressive dog chasing people down the street, his precinct had received Love Leads. “When I got there, it was obvious Nala, a pit bull English setter mix puppy, was not dangerous. She was just playing. One guy was scared, and shechased him.
“I lured her with snacks and hooked her up with a Love Lead. While I was waiting for Animal Control, I used the Love Lead to walk her around and use the bathroom. Then I put her in my car. Animal Control had to hold her. After an investigation, they didn’t find anything to charge the owners with. The owners relinquished the dog, and the Humane Society said I could pick her up if I wanted her. I picked Nala up the next day. She’s laid back and calm for a puppy; she’s a good dog and gets along well with my kids. She was never aggressive.”
As for the future of the Love Leads Project, Lippe says, “I don’t foresee stopping. So far it has worked out according to plan. Every major police department in Maryland has gotten a leash. To date we’ve given out more than 4500 leashes in the U.S. and internationally. Our goal is to put a leash in every police officer’s car. Hopefully, we’ll hit 5000 leashes, our ultimate goal. I just hope I’m making a difference.”
Lippe adds, “If you would like to help, please make a donation to Show Your Soft Side because they’re contributing so much and can find out who needs leashes. And if you see a stray animal, please stop and try to help out. Donations to support the Love Leads Project can be made at www.showyoursoftside.org.
To learn more about The Love Leads Project visit www.theloveleadsproject.org.