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Dead Animal Warning

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Michael Westen: Friend of mine, Cara Stagner, she has a rat problem.
Alvaro Desantos: And you come here? Sounds like she needs an exterminator.
Michael: Little late for that: they're nailed to her door.

Want to send someone a message stronger than just throwing a brick through their window? Then throw a dead animal through their window instead. Or nail it to their door. Or just dump it on their door step. Whatever method you chose, the message will be clear: that you are willing to kill and that they could be next.

A character's pets are especially at risk of being targeted, especially in horror shows where pets almost never survive and are usually the first victims of the killer. Often combined with Break-In Threat.

Of course, this can also set off the Animal Wrongs Group.

The equivalent when done with a human is Dead Guy on Display (if done for intimidation).

See also Bad People Abuse Animals. Compare Kick the Dog, And Your Little Dog, Too!, Finger in the Mail (sending somebody someone else's severed body part(s)).


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    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • In the lead-up to Batman #400, Ra's al Ghul sends Batman a package containing a bat with broken neck; a fairly obvious threat, as Batman puts it.
    • In a similar vein, #1 of the post-Rebirth series of Teen Titans, Ra's al Ghul sends Damian Wayne (a.k.a. Robin) a dead robin on his 13th birthday.
  • Parodied in Transmetropolitan:
    • Spider owns a "maker" produced by a Mafia-owned company and if he tries to throw it away (its A.I. is a drug addict), severed horse heads appear in his bed.
    • It also shows up on the very first page:
      Spider: I was having a mildly paranoid day, mainly due to the fact that the mad priest bitch from across the river had started nailing dead weasels to my door again.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): While Artemis is Wonder Woman and Diana is acting as a hero and PI under her own name she rescues a woman from a Stalker with a Crush who had killed the woman's pets and left her creepy messages with their bodies in retaliation for the woman getting engaged.

    Fan Works 
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: Canonically, Mrs Norris was merely petrified and hung up on a sconce as a warning, to be eventually revived. Here, she's killed and nailed to the wall. Along with her six newborn kittens. In the shape of a smiley face.
    Diarymort: Do I Have Your Attention Yet?
  • Witching Hour: On one of Gaz's hunts, her entire pack of hunting hounds mysteriously disappears, and she comes across their mauled, dead bodies, along with a few dead cows as well. Zim killed them as part of his plan to frame her for being a witch.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blackway: After he starts stalking Laura, Blackway murders her cat.
  • In Blastfighter, Wally and his redneck buddies slit the throat of the fawn Tiger saved and leave it in the front seat of his car. Later, they rig up a dead racoon so it swings down at hits him in the face when he opens the door.
  • In the interviews in Blooded, it is mentioned that the first serious threat Lucas received for his views on hunting was a dead fox dumped on his doorstep.
  • City of the Dead: On returning to her room after the dancers disappear, Nan finds a dead bird on her bed: impaled by a silver pin shaped like an arrow. Later, Patricia finds one and her grandfather tells her it the mark of the witches.
  • In the film version of Crazy Rich Asians, Amanda and her friends pull a horrible prank on Rachel, leaving a gutted bloody fish on Rachel's bed with a message calling her a gold-digging bitch.
  • In The Dry, Aaron leaves the police station and discovers that someone has dumped a dead dog on top of his car; the blood dripping down the windscreen. Later, a flashback reveals that a calf with its throat slit had been dumped on the doorstep of the Falk family home when he was a teenager, accompanied by a rock through the window.
  • In Dumb and Dumber, the thugs sent after Harry and Lloyd kill their parakeet as a threat. They don't quite get the message, not knowing that they'd crossed the bad guys and thinking that the bird's head just fell off on its own.
  • In Fair Game, the hunters leave a dead, skinned kangaroo sitting in the driver's seat of Jessica's ute.
  • As part of her reign of terror in Fatal Attraction when she goes off the deep end, Alex kills Ellen's pet rabbit and puts it into the Gallaghers' pressure cooker to boil.
  • A variation in Gangs of New York when Amsterdam hangs a dead rabbit on a fence in Paradise Square. It's the symbol of his father's old gang, the Dead Rabbits, and both a call to arms for the immigrant community and a message to Bill the Butcher that he's not going to give up.
  • In The Godfather, Jack Woltz wakes up with the severed head of his prize horse Khartoum in his bed as proof of what will happen if he doesn't give into Don Corleone's demands.
  • Pig Hunt: When Ben and Quincy arrive back at the cabin, they find Quincy's missing dog Wolfgang: only someone has killed him and carved out his eyes.
  • In Ratter, Emma returns to her apartment to find her cat Clover dead. While others try to convince her that this could have been an accident or natural causes, Emma is convinced it is the work of her stalker.
  • Revenge (2017): Not so much a warning as a perverse practical joke, but Richard wakes up the sleeping Stan by flinging a dead cat on to the windscreen of his car. Stan understandably screams as he awakens to a thump and blood splattered across his windscreen.
  • Spenser Confidential: When Spenser retells the tale of how he ended up in prison and its connection to "Tracksuit" Brentwood, he mentions Brentwood performing strong-arming tactics on a poor student who was protesting his employer's deals (and then he killed her), which included nailing the student's beloved cat to her home's door.
  • In Tuff Turf, Morgan pursues a gang leader's girlfriend, and finds a dead rat hanging by its tail in his locker as a result.
  • In What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Jane begins denying Blanche food, until she serves Blanche's dead pet parakeet—and, at a later meal, a dead rat—to her on a dinner platter.
  • XX: In "Her Only Living Son," the cult nails a dead squirrel to a tree outside Cora's home.

  • 365 Days: In the third book, Massimo gets increasingly jealous about Laura spending time with Nacho, prompting him to kill her pet dog and send the corpse to her in a box. He claims Nacho did it and Laura initially believes him, breaking things off with Nacho.
  • Four Past Midnight: In the short story Secret Window, Secret Garden Mort's cat is killed with a screwdriver and left as a warning by his Stalker Without A Crush. John Shooter is revealed to be in Mort's head the whole time. Mort killed his own cat. The film adaptation changes it to a dog.
  • In Daughters of Darkness, Mrs Burdock's murderer kills one of her pet goats, impales it with dozens of wooden stakes and leaves the corpse on the porch for her great-nieces to find, in an attempt to make them leave Briar Creek.
  • Millennium Series: In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mikael Blomquist bonds with a cat while staying at the Vanger estate. He wakes up one morning to find that the villain has killed the cat and left its mutilated remains on his doorstep.
  • In one of the most famous scenes of The Godfather, a Hollywood producer wakes up with the head of his prized racehorse in his bed as proof of what will happen if he doesn't give into Don Corleone's demands.
  • Harry Potter:
  • In the short story "Knox" by Harlan Ellison, the KKK-type racist terrorist group nails their enemy's dog to his door.
  • In Needful Things, Nettie's dog, Raider, is skewered with a Swiss army knife and left with the note for her to find.
  • Nick Velvet: Sandra Paris encounters this when scoping out a target in the Savage South in "The Theft of the Bald Man's Comb":
    All I got for my trouble was a couple of rifle shots that were so close that I could feel the breeze. Back in town someone let the air of my tires, and the next morning I found a dead dog in the back seat of my car. That was enough for me!
  • Solar Pons: In "The Adventure of the Sealed Spire", one of the stunts performed during the Gaslighting of the rector is the killing of friend's pet cat and planting the body in the rector's holdall.
  • Warrior Cats: In Forest of Secrets, Cinderpaw grabs a magpie from the fresh-kill pile and is about to take it to Bluestar, but finds out it's rotten and filled with maggots. Fireheart fearfully wonders if it's an omen from StarClan that Bluestar's leadership is rotting away from the inside, as she has recently been devastated by the betrayal of Tigerclaw, one of her oldest friends. In the following book, Bluestar becomes more paranoid that all of her Clan are traitors and no longer trusts any of them.
  • Subverted in Trickster's Duet. The raka spy network discusses nailing dead rats to people's doors as a threat. Since their spymaster's Honorary Aunt is a Friend to All Living Things and would never forgive her for it, she decides to use baskets of live rats in their bedrooms instead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 13 Reasons Why, Montgomery De la Cruz leaves a dead rat in Zach's gym bag.
  • American Horror Story: Roanoke: Among the many disturbing events warning Matt and Shelby away from the house in the first episode is a dead, bloody pig being left on their doorstep.
  • Badger: In "The Price of a Daughter," a disemboweled badger is dumped in Tom's garden as a warning.
  • The Burn Notice episode "Fight or Flight" has a cocktail waitress, Cara, be the only conscious witness to a drug cartel member beating a pizza delivery boy senseless for rear-ending him. The cartel starts intimidating her, including nailing a dead rat to her front door. Fortunately, Cara's boss happens to be Michael Westen's landlord.
  • Cannon: In "To Kill a Guinea Pig," mobsters attempting to strong arm a medical researcher into including a particular prisoner in her trials (so he can be killed) kill her pet monkey and hang it from a tree outside her house.
  • Community: Played for Laughs in "Introduction to Teaching". Jeff finds Annie crying and she shows him what Professor Hickey gave her: a dead rat pinned to a card with Cut-and-Paste Note reading "You're next". Jeff is shocked, but it turns out this is Annie's Witness Intimidation project and what she is upset about is the grade: an A-.
  • CSI: In "Uninvited," the CSI team investigate when an entirely is reported as having been missing for a month. While investigating, they discover blood on the front door step, and eventually learn that the family dog had been killed and dumped on the doorstep.
  • CSI: NY: In "Dead Inside," Stella receives a dead rat in the mail: a warning to her that the murder of the 'rat fisherman' should remain an unsolved case.
  • In Fargo episode "A Muddy Road," Malvo kills the dog of his blackmail victim and leaves behind a Cut-and-Paste Note with the demand of an even bigger ransom. Message received.
  • The Golden Girls episode "Feelings" has Dorothy harassed by her high school trying to pressure her into passing a failing football star so he can win a big game. At one point, she received a fish wrapped in newspaper and while she makes light of it by quipping to have white wine with it, Sophia is upset by this, believing that they would harm her. This is justified as the latter's from Sicily and knows what's the big deal about this gesture.
  • After Monroe (a Blutbad) and Rosalee (a Fuchsbau) get married on Grimm, a Wesen hate group protests their union by nailing the corpse of a fox (the animal Fuchsbau are based on) to her apothecary shop.
  • Inspector George Gently: In "Breathe in the Air," a doctor's dog is killed as part of a harassment campaign that ultimately drives her to suicide.
  • In Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Purgatory" after coming back from his suspension and going undercover to bust some fellow dirty cops, Det. Goren opens up his drawer to find a dead rat inside of it.
  • The Librarians (2007): After Frances upsets the local community (yet again), a pig's head is shoved into the library's book return chute.
  • Marple: In Endless Night, Ellie discovers a dead bird with a threatening message pinned to it on her doorstep as part of a campaign of harassment aimed at her.
  • In the Midnight Caller episode "Take Back the Streets," drug dealers kill an anti-drug protestor's cat and leave the body on her bed.
  • Midsomer Murders:
    • In "Death in Chorus," artist Connor Simpson is shocked when a pig's heart is nailed to his cottage door.
    • In "The Axeman Cometh," a campaign of harassment against Gary Cooper sees a dead sheep dumped on his tennis court, a gutted pig placed in his trout stream, and a skinned rabbit strung up in his garage.
    • In "Till Death Do Us Part", the first Victim of the Week is being trolled by someone who is sending her dead animals with ribbons tied around their tongues.
  • The second episode of Savage River ends with a bull's head being dumped in front of Terry's house as a warning to Miki.
  • Sonny with a Chance: Parodied "Poll'd Apart", in which the So Random! cast does a sketch mocking a gossip columnist that's been spreading rumors about them. Following the broadcast, she sends them a chain of sausages with the emblazoned words "YOU'RE - DEAD - MEAT".
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Hunters", Dr. Klein believes that the mutilated sheep carcass found outside the prehistoric cave was placed there by Jim Hilsen, whose housing development was delayed by the discovery of the cave, in order to intimidate her and the rest of the archaelogical team. However, it turns out that it was killed by the ghosts of the prehistoric hunters depicted on the cave walls.
  • Subverted on Veronica Mars. After the bus crash at the start of season two, Keith investigates the wreckage of the bus to find a dead rat taped under one of the seats. Keith and Veronica initially conclude that the rat was a message to someone who was planning to rat out someone else. But later, Keith figures that the purpose of the rat was the stench forcing certain students off the bus to protect them.

  • Murder Ballads by Nick Cave: Happens to Professor O'Rye in "The Curse of Millhaven". This is the one crime that Serial Killer Villain Protagonist who describes herself as 'a monster' denies responsibility for.
    Then Professor O'Rye from Millhaven High
    Found nailed to his door his prize-winning terrier
    Then next day the old fool brought little Biko to school
    And we all had to watch as he buried her

  • Books of Samuel: Saul cuts an ox apart and has its dismembered bodies part sent to all the cities of Israel, a warning that the same dismemberment will happen to the livestock of any who do not fight against Nahash the Ammonite. Three hundred thousand soldiers answer the call.

    Visual Novels 
  • Queen of Thieves: In Zoe's second season, Dead Rat King leaves a bunch of dead rats strung up under a bridge for her and the heroine to find on their gondola ride. A few episodes later, Zoe is testing out her full-room hologram projector when it gets hijacked and the surroundings change to a dungeon filled with dead rats.
  • Reigning Passions: Midway through Amara's first season, the heroine finds a dead hummingbird in her bed, along with a threatening note. Piama notes that since hummingbirds are considered sacred, whoever left it must have really meant it.
  • In Rising Tides, somebody leaves a dead fish in Harriet's car after both her and her activist sister get their names dragged through the mud for protesting climate change (specifically the fish dying off) and incurring the wrath of the town's local newspaper in the process. What makes this more threatening is that A) Harriet and her sister are protesting because the fish die-off would put her family out of business and B) the fish has a knife stabbed through it.

  • Unsounded: Sette cut up the pet rat of one of her da's gang members and put it in his soup after he harassed her to get him to leave her be.

    Web Video 
  • Echo Rose: Along with a note telling her to stop investigating, Echo also received the skull of an animal, a targeted strike as the sender knew she was an animal-loving Empath.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In "The Long March" Francine gives a less-than-perfect review to a crazed Uber driver, who sends her dead fish with "FOUR STARS?!" carved into it.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner" episode has food critic Homer gain the ire of the local restaurateurs due to his negative reviews of them. Luigi mentions that he had been sent a horse's head—which he then ate and still gave a bad review to.
    • Another episode had a detective mentioning that Homer had been sent a dead fish wrapped in newspaper. Upon unrolling the paper though, it appears that he had already eaten that, as well.