Animal Cruelty: Misdemeanor or FelonyPublished March 22, 2010
While we generally don't consider alpacas to be domestic house pets, Jeff Pergram, the owner of a three month-old, baby alpaca that was tortured and beaten to death last month, hopes that this horrendous act of animal cruelty will serve to strengthen the work of a state lawmaker in Ohio who is a strong advocate for passing tougher laws concerning cruelty to animals. These horrific crimes must receive the powerful and swift punishment that they deserve, with which I deeply believe that all animal lovers will agree. Mr. Pergram discovered Masterpiece, his baby alpaca in an abandoned barn in southwest Ohio in February. Deeply upset by this senseless killing, he is presently installing security cameras around the boundaries of his Middletown farm in hopes of preventing another such attack on his "beloved" animals. In an interview with FoxNews.com, Mr. Pergram said, "It's hard to look out there and see he's not there now. He was a real inquisitive guy. He was like a dog; he wanted to be right next to you, to nuzzle you." He assumes that Masterpiece's friendliness led to his death. He continued by saying, "He was way different. And it's a different generation of people we're raising right now." Two 17 year-old boys were arrested and charged in juvenile court with vandalism, animal cruelty, theft, tampering with evidence related to Masterpiece's death, and breaking and entering. They both are presently in custody at a juvenile detention center awaiting a hearing on March 30. At this time prosecutors want their case transferred to an adult court where the penalties for such brutal acts will be far more serious, if they are convicted. Additionally a grand jury is also pondering on whether to indict 22 year-old Stacie Mullin, a resident of Madison Township, Ohio, in connection with the killing, who allegedly transported the boys to and from the farm. Similar to llamas, alpacas are native to South America. The wool made from their magnificent coats is highly desirable. With an approximate population of nearly 25,000 alpacas kept in Ohio, according to the national registry, the state has nearly 20 percent of the nation's alpacas. Following the publicity concerning Masterpiece's appalling death, further reports have been made about another missing alpaca local to the area. Rep. Courtney Combs, R-Hamilton, states that it is now time for the passage of the Ohio House Bill 55 which will vitalize the state's animal cruelty laws. In speaking with FoxNews.com, Rep. Combs said, "Let's get this bill going. How can you explain the mind that works that way that would abuse a helpless animal? There's something wrong there." Proposing Ohio House Bill 55 late in 2007 which remains stalled in the Ohio Legislature, Rep. Combs is hopeful that Masterpiece's "high profile" torture and killing, along with the second missing alpaca, will spark increased interest and a thrust in the passage of the bill into law quickly. Rep. Combs reported that subsequently he has received many calls from anxious alpaca owners. Furthermore Rep. Combs is contemplating proposing a state animal abuser registry similar to the database of sex offenders. A California lawmaker has recently suggested a similar proposal. However, Butler County's prosecutor, Robin Piper considers Rep. Comb's bill insufficient. The way it is written now only permits the crime of animal cruelty, torture or killing of a companion animal to be a misdemeanor with psychological counseling required. The punishment for cruelty to livestock animals would only carry a 90 day jail term penalty. Piper feels that the state's animal cruelty laws are "antiquated" and need revision. He said, "This requirement should be more comprehensive and put into place anytime a juvenile is involved in animal cruelty, malicious injury, or torture of an animal -- regardless of what type of animal is involved. It doesn't make sense that someone can steal $500 worth of scrap metal and it's a felony, yet they can maliciously beat, torture, or kill and an animal worth thousands of dollars, and it's only a misdemeanor. I'm not trying to go on a crusade, but the law needs to be much stronger than it is." In this writer's opinion, it is high time that the crime of cruelty to animals be considered to be a heinous one throughout the entire country, punished by severe penalties. Since we already know that cruelty to animals holds dire implications for increased violence, it is an act that can no longer be tolerated. What are your opinions? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.