Pennsylvania teen who tortured dying deer avoids prison sentence; case highlights need for mental he
This case has set a precedent in Pennsylvania for future wildlife cruelty cases to be charged under Libre’s Law. Photo by Maura Flaherty
A Pennsylvania court this week allowed an 18-year-old to avoid prison time for a crime that shocked Americans when a viral video of it surfaced earlier this year: in the video, the young man and his friend were seen torturing a dying deer, kicking him in the head and even ripping off his antler as the frightened animal cried in pain and tried to escape.
The two young men were charged soon after with felony animal cruelty under Libre’s Law, a landmark 2017 Pennsylvania law that increased penalties for egregious animal cruelty. This was a heartening development, because we often find that in most animal cruelty cases the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, and the new law finally gave Pennsylvania a strong tool to ensure that those who commit such terrible animal cruelty are held accountable. It also set a precedent in Pennsylvania for future wildlife cruelty cases to be charged under Libre’s Law.
This week, the older teen was sentenced to two years of probation and 200 hours of community service after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals and summary counts of violating state hunting regulations. His hunting license was also revoked for 15 years. The more serious charges, including a felony count of aggravated cruelty to animals that carried a penalty of up to seven years in prison, were withdrawn. (The other teen, who is 17, has been charged as a juvenile).
However one may feel about the outcome, one thing is clear: there is a lot more that remains to be done to ensure that animal cruelty crimes are treated with the seriousness that they deserve.
One of the most disturbing aspects of this case was the apparent apathy of the young men to the pain and suffering of a dying animal: they could be seen laughing as they videotaped themselves on their phones hurting the terrified deer in his final moments.
Research has drawn a clear link time and again between animal cruelty and acts of human violence. It is a link we ourselves have often reported, including in the case of the high school shooter who boasted of killing animals before he shot and killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida. Just last week, we heard of this case in South Carolina where a dog was found shot inside the home of a man facing multiple charges after a domestic violence investigation.
That’s why the Humane Society of the United States is now asking prosecutors in Pennsylvania to consider mental health evaluations and counseling for cases involving such egregious animal cruelty. We are working closely with state organizations, including the State’s Center for Children’s Justice, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, to develop a free seminar for law enforcement and social service professionals centered around the important relationship between animal cruelty and family violence.
We are also supporting a state bill, the Animal Welfare Cooperation Act, HB 1655, which will encourage cross-agency partnerships and collaboration that will be particularly helpful with complicated cases under Libre’s Law or investigations that cover multiple jurisdictions. The bill would, among other provisions, allow the office of the attorney general to provide free training for district attorneys and humane police officers on handling complicated animal abuse investigations. In one year alone there are more than 18,000 animal abuse offenses reported in Pennsylvania, and this law would better equip law enforcement agencies to address them.
We need your support to get this bill passed so if you live in Pennsylvania, please call your state lawmakers and ask them to support H.B. 1655. This case also highlights the importance for each one of us to be vigilant and report animal cruelty when we see it happening, so those who cause such intense animal suffering do not have a chance to repeat it.
Published at Fri, 15 May 2020 19:12:01 +0000
By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
The Endangered Species Act has been credited with saving 99 percent of listed species from extinction, including the beloved bald eagle. The law currently lists 1,600 U.S. species, including grizzly bears and gray wolves. Photo by KenCanning/iStock.com
Imagine our world and its wildlife without the protections of the Endangered Species Act. Had it not been for this bedrock federal law, the beloved American bald eagle would most likely have gone the way of the dodo or the passenger pigeon. Gray wolves and grizzly bears would be no more than relics hanging on the walls of trophy hunters. And the humpback whale would only be found in history books.
Since 1973, when President Nixon signed it into law, the ESA has been highly effective at doing exactly what it was meant to do: stopping endangered and threatened wildlife species from disappearing off the face of the earth. It’s been credited with saving 99 percent of listed species from extinction. The law currently lists 1,600 U.S. species, including American native carnivores like gray wolves and grizzly bears, and North Atlantic right whales.
But despite its efficacy, and its importance to biodiversity not only in our nation but throughout the world (the law also regulates import of trophies of at-risk animals from overseas), the ESA has been under repeated attack over the years from federal appointees and lawmakers beholden to special interests like trophy hunters. In recent years, they have found a powerful ally in the White House.
Last year, just two months after a U.N. report warned that more than a million wildlife species are at risk of extinction, the Trump administration announced changes to gut the ESA, including stripping newly listed threatened species of vital safeguards and creating hurdles to list species threatened by climate change. The Humane Society of the United States is challenging this move in court, and the Humane Society Legislative Fund is pushing for laws in Congress that would not only stop these damaging changes to the ESA from taking effect, but would further strengthen protections for wildlife.
Today, on Endangered Species Day, we urge you to take a moment to contact your lawmakers and ask them to support three bills now before Congress:
The Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies Act of 2019 (ProTECT Act) H.R. 4804: Introduced by Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Pete King, R-N.Y., and Ted Lieu, D-Calif., this bill would prohibit the trophy imports and killing in the United States of species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. The United States is the world’s largest importer of animal trophies, including federally protected species.
The Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Conservation Act (Paw and Fin Act) H.R. 4348/S. 2491: Introduced by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., this bill would repeal the Trump administration’s disastrous regulations that significantly weaken the ESA and make it harder to achieve federal protections for endangered and threatened species.
The Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) North Atlantic Right Whales Act, H.R. 1568/S. 2453: Introduced by Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and John Rutherford, R-Fla., and Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Thomas Carper, D-Del., this bill would authorize $5 million per year for North Atlantic right whale conservation research over the next 10 years. Right whales are critically endangered, with no more than 400 individuals surviving along the U.S. and Canadian coast, and their numbers are declining due to entanglement in commercial fishing gear, collision with large ships and climate change.
We were heartened by news that the current House bill of the next coronavirus stimulus package includes a key provision to prohibit the interstate transport of some wild animals that are a danger to our health and to native wildlife, who can pass zoonotic diseases to humans and are frequently exploited in captivity, and we thank Rep. Grijalva for championing it. We’re also working to protect endangered species, like tigers, who are bred and raised in captive situations in large numbers in the United States.
The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us that our lives and our health are inextricably linked with the fate and well-being of wildlife and other animals, and that treating animals cruelly can have grave consequences for us. We cannot sit quietly while our government enables the abuse, neglect and possible extinction of the most precious and rarest animals in the world by hacking away at protections so important to their survival. The outcome—a world without lions and elephants and an America without grizzlies and wolves—is impossible to contemplate, and we won’t let it happen.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
Published at Fri, 15 May 2020 16:39:18 +0000