Barbara Fabricant is frustrated. More than 20 pet poisonings and maimings have occurred in the Silver Lake hills in the past five months and she hasn't got a clue about the culprit or the motive. "I've seen hundreds of strychnine poisoning cases," she says. "Usually it's a neighbor who doesn't like the sound of dogs barking or hates cats because they spray. This time it's both dogs and cats."

Fabricant, 67, is no novice when it comes to defending helpless creatures. As a state-authorized humane officer and founder/director of the L. A.-based Humane Task Force, an animal welfare group, Fabricant has virtually the same powers as a police officer when it comes to animal abuse cases. She can even carry a gun.

Her career started innocuously enough 17 years ago when she took a stray collie to ananimal shelter. "The first thing I encountered," she says, "was this kennel worker, kicking a dog." The next week, she and 100 friends picketed the shelter. Radicalized, Fabricant sold her five Canoga Park businesses and became an animal rights activist.

She enrolled in a two-week training session conducted by the State Humane Officers Assn., where she learned the procedures for arrests, searches and seizures and other aspects of criminal and civil law. She was then sworn in as a humane officer with limited power to make arrests.

Since then, Fabricant says, she has rescued hundreds of animals from abusive situations. But she found that animal abuse was often only part of the problem. "I would go out on abuse cases and pick up a hurt dog and have to leave a child behind with a beaten, swollen face," she says. "Anyone who abuses an animal will abuse a person." In such cases, Fabricant, who has never made an arrest, calls the local Sheriff's Department.

As for the Silver Lake poisonings, she is working with the LAPD, and is offering a $2,000 reward to anyone who supplies her with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprits.

"I realized a long time ago the only way to make a dent in the problem," she says, "is to get the authority to do it."

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