EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (CBS 2) — A Long Island man is behind bars Thursday night, accused of violently torturing and abusing his girlfriend’s five-month-old kitten.

Investigators say animal abuse is often a precursor to domestic abuse.

Video shot inside the animal hospital by Nassau County District Attorney investigators shows the kitten hooked to IVs and limping across the clinic floor. Photographs reveal veterinarians treated the abused cat for internal injuries, bleach burns, a split lip, and fractured bones.

The kitty was allegedly tortured and beaten by Shomari Ferguson of Uniondale.

“He repeatedly threw her against the wall and beat her to such an extent – broken hip, broken ribs, a collapsed lung – her body temperature was so low, it didn’t register on a thermometer. She was in shock,” Nassau County Assistant DA Amanda Burke said.

Burke said the abuse took place in East Meadow when Ferguson’s girlfriend was away at work.

Investigators say the suspect has a history of physical and verbal intimidation of his girlfriend, and that animal cruelty cases are often part of a larger problem of domestic violence.

“They can abuse these animals and send these messages to these women – ‘you will be next,'” Madeline Singas, of the Special Victims Bureau at the DA’s Office, said. “For people in law enforcement, they are very serious cases.”

Recently, District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s office opened an Animal Cruelty Task Force.

“Among the components of this unit is a 24-hour hotline,” Bernadette Ford, a member of the task force, said.

Callers can be anonymous, because they may be victims, too.

“Most animal cruelty happens behind closed doors, in one of the most constitutionally protected areas in existence – your own home,” Jed Painter, also in the cruelty unit, said.

Detectives say that, if caught in time, animals can be rescued – and families can be saved.

The kitten, named “Cali the Cat,” was hospitalized for a month, but recovered enough to recently be released. One of the assistant veterinarians adopted her into a loving home.

Suspect Shomari Ferguson pleaded not guilty to animal abuse. He did not make bail, and is now being held on unrelated felony robbery charges.

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