Two high profile cases of animal abuse are soon to be tried in our state’s courts. Both involve women accused of killing their boyfriends’ dogs using violent methods. One woman faces a felony charge, the other faces a misdemeanor. Their potential penalties are different.
Here’s a summary of the tragic cases.
Mary the shepherd/lab mix. Wausau, WI. This case received international attention, sparking a huge demand for justice via letters, petitions and demonstrations. According to news accounts, Mary was first poisoned with bleach and Drano and then ultimately killed by a knife. The accused woman allegedly chronicled her delight in watching the dog suffer through writings in her diary.
Here are some excerpts from her diary as reported by the media:
"I need to find a way to kill her without it looking like I killed her. I've done lots of things already. I've given her drano, bleach and a lot of pain pills lol one night she got all tweaked out because of it, it was so funny."
" I have never hated an animal so much in my life, much less hate one or beat one. But the pleasure I get from watching her whimper in pain and cry out for help as I shove drano and bleach down her throat is like no other."
Per the Wisconsin Court System Circuit Court Access website, the defendant faces three charges. Two are classified as Felony I: Mistreatment of Animals/Cause Death (statute 951.02) and Intent. Poison Law Enforcement Animal (statute 956.06). Under 939.50 Classification of Felonies, a Class I felony penalty brings a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 3 years and 6 months or both.
This crime took place in June of 2012. After several motions and delays the new trial dates begin March 17th before Judge Greg Grau in Marathon County. If you can, please attend and show your support for the memory of Mary and all the other animals that suffer at the hands of cruel people.
Jixer the basset hound, La Crosse, WI. According to a La Crosse newspaper story, Jixer was killed on November 14, 2013. The ex-girlfriend of Jixer’s owner allegedly broke into the apartment and attacked the poor dog. Court reports state the 13-year-old dog suffered from fractured ribs, a collapsed lung and a cut consistent with a stab wound. Police discovered the dog dead on the floor and believed it had been strangled to death.
According to Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website, the defendant has been charged with two misdemeanors: Statute 951.02 Intentionally Mistreat Animals, Misd. A and Statue 947.01(1) Disorderly Conduct, Misd. B.
Per statute 939.51 a Class A misdemeanor has a penalty of a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 9 months or both.
When I contacted the prosecuting attorney’s office to see why misdemeanors were charged versus a felony, their response was no comment, as it’s an ongoing criminal prosecution. Pre-trial conference is set for January 10, 2014. We’ll have to wait and see if justice is served for Jixer. Sadly, according to a news report, his owner wrote a letter to the court, asking that charges against the defendant be dropped.
So, what can we do to ensure justice in the court system?
Here are a few ideas:
1. Whenever we hear of horrific cases of animal abuse, we can let the judges and prosecuting attorneys know we want the maximum sentence imposed.
2. Ask them if they’ve heard of a statute that prevents abusers from owning pets, at least for a little while.
951.18(4)(c)reads :Except as provided in s.951.08 (2), a sentencing court may order that the criminal violator may not own, possess or train any animal or type or species of animal for a period specified by the court, but not to exceed 5 years. In computing the time period, time which the person spent in actual confinement serving a sentence shall be excluded.
3. Expand the penalties. Some states like Illinois, Iowa, California and Colorado have legislation that requires animal abusers to attend counseling. Wisconsin does not. Odds are good that most of our legislators are pet owners and care about animals. What do you think they're waiting for?
Denice Ryan Martin, an advisor with Wisconsin Voters for Companion Animals, is a freelance writer and licensed social worker based in Genesee. She’d like to hear your thoughts on this topic. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org