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Newsmaker: Christine Luffey

Animal-abuse policing is this officer's calling

Monday, May 28, 2001

By Jonathan D. Silver, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

In her eight years as a Pittsburgh police officer, Christine Luffey has dealt with some real animals -- dogs, cats and birds.

JoDeen Rezner takes her cat, Rowdy, to a checkup at the Animal Rescue League in East Liberty. Officer Christine Luffey was there to check on the cat, who was shot 21 times. Luffey arrested a suspect in the shooting last week. (Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette)

She also has dealt with animals of the human variety, the ones who abuse helpless pets.

Luffey, a crime prevention officer who works in the police bureau's West End station, last week cracked what she considers the biggest case of her career -- the mutilation of a cat named Rowdy.

Someone shot the feline 21 times with a pellet gun last month, leaving him to die in the Esplen neighborhood where his owner lives.

Rowdy was blinded in one eye by the attacker and left with an array of other wounds. The cat underwent emergency surgery and survived, but a veterinarian was able to remove only 10 of the lead pellets.

What happened to Rowdy incensed people across the Pittsburgh area. Perhaps no one was more appalled than Luffey. At the time of the shooting, she asserted that justice must be served.

She arrested a teen-age suspect last week.

Christine Luffey

Date of birth: Sept. 20, 1967

In the news: Luffey was the police officer who investigated last month's shooting of a pet cat and last week arrested a 16-year-old boy in the case.

Quote: "I don't favor animals over people or vice versa. I just have a big heart. If some animal or some person needs me, I'll be there."

Education: Graduated from South Hills High School in 1985; studied at Community College of Allegheny County; graduated from the Pittsburgh Police Academy in 1993.

Family: Husband, Bill Skovran; five dogs and two cats.



Luffey, 33, has become known in the police bureau as an officer who cares deeply about animals.

In 1995, Luffey shared with another officer the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania's "humane-itarian of the year" award for launching a campaign to help Rookie, a 4-month-old dog who was thrown out a window.

Over the years, Luffey has rescued unwanted and abused animals and walked homeless dogs at shelters.

Perhaps her biggest contribution to the four-legged world was to spend three years creating the PAWS Jam, a benefit that raises money to spay and neuter animals.

Luffey always loved animals but never planned on being a cop. Raised on Mount Washington with two brothers and two dogs, she always brought home strays, much to the consternation of her parents.

"They were mad at me," Luffey recalled. "I would give [the strays] all the chipped ham and the cheese."

At 18, after graduating from high school, Luffey left home and supported herself by working as an information processor with the Pittsburgh Board of Education.

On her first night alone in her own apartment, she was spooked by noises. The next morning she marched down to the humane society and picked up Jasmine, a German shepherd-Labrador retriever mix who lived until last year.

Luffey eventually decided to go back to school at the Community College of Allegheny County. She thought about going into nursing, but decided against it.

"I don't think I could deal with sick children, sticking them with big needles," she said.

It was then that she discovered criminology and her life changed.

In 1991, Luffey applied to the Pittsburgh Police Academy. Two years later, the academy accepted her in.

Luffey started as a community-oriented police officer in Banksville. From there, she moved to crime prevention, always taking an interest in crimes against both animals and people.

Sgt. George McCarthy of the West End station has worked with Luffey for seven years.

"She's a very honest and hardworking person, " McCarthy said.

Luffey says what she does is all in a day's work.

"I love this job," she said. "I take anybody on as my client. I don't care if they have four paws or two."

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