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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 the 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.

To make it even more personal, the animal could be a beloved pet. 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!.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • 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 Damien Wayne (a.k.a. Robin) a dead robin on his 13th birthday.

    Films — Live-Action  
  • 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.
  • In Fair Game, the hunters leave a dead, skinned kangaroo sitting in the driver's seat of Jessica's ute.
  • 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.
  • XX: In "Her Only Living Son", the cult nails a dead squirrel to a tree outside Cora's home.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • In Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mikael Blomquist bonds with a cat while staying at the Vanger estate. He wakes up one morning to find the villain has killed the cat and left its mutilated remains on his doorstep.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the school caretaker's cat is hung up as a warning after the Chamber of Secrets is opened. Being a children's book, it turns out that she's petrified but not dead, and she's revived later.
    • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince a flashback shows Dumbledore visiting the orphanage where Tom Riddle was raised, and the matron discusses an incident in which he was accused of hanging another child's pet rabbit from the rafters after the rabbit's owner annoyed him. The accusations had to be dropped because they couldn't prove that he climbed into the rafters to do it, not realizing he was a wizard.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Badger: In "The Price of a Daughter", a disemboweled badger is dumped in Tom's garden as a warning.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Librarians (2007): After Frances upsets the local community (yet again), a pig's head is shoved into the library's book return chute.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 remained an unsolved case.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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.

     Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • The "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner" episode has good 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.

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