On Thursday, a veterinarian in Aventura, Florida pleaded guilty to sexually abusing pets under his care, and to making "crush videos," where animals are trampled, stepped on or smashed to death for sexual gratification.
According a Department of Justice press release, Prentiss Madden, medical director at Caring Hands animal hospital, pleded guilty to three counts of receiving child pornography, one count of posession of child pornography, and one count of creating crush videos. An illegal form of fetishism, crush "porn" involves watching someone stomp on a small animal; "soft crush" content, such as smashing invertebrates like bugs and snails, is legal, but even people who are into this sort of crush generally consider the "hard" kind to be abhorrent animal torture.
In May 2020, cloud-storage company DropBox tipped the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to 1,667 files that it suspected as child pornography in Madden's account between June 2018 and February 2020. Madden was first arrested in March, following a federal search of his home.
The unsealed criminal complaint against Madden reveals that he described sexually abusing dogs with dildoes, his hands, and penis, and took photos of himself abusing several different dogs. Investigators used the GPS geolocation contained in the photos' metadata to find that they were taken in the animal hospital where Madden worked.
Madden was previously beloved by pet owners, and is named in multiple five-star Yelp reviews for the animal hospital Caring Hands. At the time of his March arrest, clients were shocked to hear that he'd been charged. Now that the details of the abuse are public, some dog owners who went to Caring Hands are trying to figure out if their pets were among the abused.
Like many animal hospitals in the U.S., Caring Hands had a Covid-19 safety policy that only staff were allowed inside the building, and owners had to drop off pets at the door. “That’s the most disgusting thing. Nobody knows what happened in there,” pet owner Gina Silvestri, who has a service dog that was a patient of Madden's, told the South Florida New Times. “It’s horrifying.”
Madden's sentencing is set to be held in October 2021. He faces a maximum penalty of 87 years in prison.