(US-GA) Officials review assessment of animal cruelty cases

Phyllis Bedford fiapab at panther.Gsu.EDU
Tue Jun 10 13:35:13 EDT 2003


Hey,
  Wanted to pass this on to you all - to see a picture of the brown dog
who was survived hanging as well as starving (she hung herself when she
tried to jump the fence - probably to find some food) go to
http://www.news-daily.com/

The story is
http://www.news-daily.com/articles/2003/06/10/news/news2.txt

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Officials review assessment of animal cruelty cases
By Ed Brock

Two recent cases of dogs found starving or dead of starvation in the back
yards of Clayton County residents has led prosecutors and law enforcement
to review the way they assess animal cruelty cases.

Clayton County Solicitor General Keith Martin, the county's Animal Control
Capt. Toni Tidwell and others met Monday to discuss how to prosecute those
two cases, both of which occurred in late May, and similar cases in the
future. 
 
"What we want to make sure we do is make an assessment up front on whether
a case should be a misdemeanor or a county ordinance violation," Martin
said.

In one case on May 25 Terrence Parks of Timberlake Court in Riverdale was
charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals and a violation of the county
ordinance requiring that animals have proper food and shelter after three
dogs, one of which was dead, were found in her back yard. Parks told
police the dogs belonged to her minor son and, because she is afraid of
dogs, she had nothing to do with them.

"One of them was in really bad shape," Tidwell said. "(The veterinarian
treating that dog) called us today and told us we could pick her up."

The other case occurred on May 27 and Amelia C. Roguemore, 47, of
Greenwood Drive in Jonesboro was also cited under the ordinance and
charged with cruelty to animals after two dead dogs were found in her back
yard. The dogs appeared to have died recently and suffered from
malnutrition, according to a Clayton County police report. Roguemore also
said the dogs belonged to her son and she thought he had taken them with
him when she kicked him out of the house three weeks before.
 
Previously it was the general rule that animal control officers would cite
animal abuse suspects for violating the county ordinance, Martin said,
while police officers would charge them with misdemeanor offenses.

Violations of the county ordinance are prosecuted in Clayton County
Magistrate Court and the misdemeanor cases are prosecuted by Martin's
office in State Court.

More than likely in the future animal control officers will give some
legal notice to violators that they are seeking to have them charged with
a misdemeanor, Martin said, and misdemeanor charges will be sought in all
but the "most benign" cases.

Animal rights activists like Robin Rawls, vice president of the Clayton
County Humane Society, want to see those kind of changes.

"I would like to see them all sent to State or Superior Court," Rawls
said. "And if that was to happen I'd like to see assurances from the
prosecutors that they would take these cases seriously."

The misdemeanor charge allows for stiffer penalties, Rawls said. Animal
rights laws are not adequately or uniformly applied, Rawls said,
particularly the felony animal cruelty law that was passed in 2000.

"The animal rights community is not at all satisfied with the law we got
in 2000," Rawls said. "There are so many holes, it's hard to prosecute
anybody."

That law, Section 16-12-4 of the Georgia Code, states in part "a person
commits the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she
knowingly and mailciously causes death or physical harm to an animal..."

It's in the details of the definition where cases like Parks' and
Roguemore's must be prosecuted as misdemeanors only, Tidwell said.

"The dog died of starvation (in Park's case) they didn't feed it," Tidwell
said. "But it's not a felony because we can't prove malice."

Animal cruelty cases should be given the same consideration as cruelty to
children cases, Rawls said.

"They're just as dependent as children," Rawls said. "A living creature is
a living creature, whether they're a child or an animal."

Martin said he agrees with Rawls but said he is still working on getting
legislation to improve his ability to prosecute cruelty to children cases
as well.

Another goal of his office is to find a way to prohibit the raising of
animals for dog fighting, Martin said. On July 23 members of his office
will go for training on recognizing the signs of such training, such as
treadmills, ropes hanging from trees and forcing dos to pull heavy blocks.

Tidwell sadi she didn't know the names of the two dogs taken from Parks,
but Animal Control Officer Gina Caufman said they've decided to call the
one that had been in the worst condition, a light-brown American Pit Bull
mix, by the name of "Lady".

"We just started calling her that today," Cauffman said.
          *********************************************

  If you heard In Tune To Nature on Radio Free Georgia last Tuesday night
you heard Solicitor Martin admit that NO one has been charged with felony
animal abuse under this law. (DA Keller and Capt Tidwell agreed.) He also
said that he had only prosecuted 8 cases of misdemeanor animal cruelty in
the last year - though I question that since there is a case of a dog
fighter, beign charged as a misdemeanor even though dog fighting is a
felony, that has not been prosecuted at all - the charges were filed
almost a year ago (July 2002) and he has done NOTHING - but I guess that's
better than a plea bargain where the sole surviving dog will be returned
to the fighter.

Note: Tune into Animal Rights NOW! this Sunday on Atlanta's public access
station - cable channel 24, People TV at 2 pm to see an interviiew done
with Clayton County's Prosecutor, Robert Keller, who initially said he was
interested in prosecuting these cases as felonies and then the day after
the interview told me over the phone that the law would not allow that
because the Animal Act of 2000 SPECIFICALLY STATES THAT ALL WILLFUL
NEGLECT INCLUDING WITHHOLDING OF FOOD AND WATER SHALL BE CHARGED AS A
MISDEMEANOR - malice or no. OH! You'll also see him say in the interview
that no one in the house except the owner could be charged with anything -
no one can be held accountable for the starving of the dogs because "what
if you fed the dog the wrong kind of food?", "What if you fed him too
much?".
   You'll also see an interview with Tidwell, who says that no matter
whether the abuser is charged under county ordinace or state charges the
penalty is the same - WRONG! County charges carry a maximum jail time of
60 days - state charges carry a maximum penalty of 360 days. ***What you
won't see is Tidwell telling me about the pit bull, named Red, who was
taken into custody by Clayton County Animal Control and then stolen by
inmates working at the pound and sold out the back door along with another
pit bull puppy - surely sold to a dog fighter. Unfortunately for Tidwell,
Red's family was looking for him and would not accept her absurb lie that
he had escaped by crawling out drainage pipes within the facility.***
    But you will be able to see Red's guardian, Cynthia Brown, telling the
whole story on the following edition of Animal Rights NOW! - set to air on
6-29-03 and 7-6-03. 






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