Legalities and other nonsense

Recently we asked you readers to help out Strawberry Mountain Mustangs.  They wanted public input on sentencing recommendations for the neglect case involving a horse named Grace.  The sentencing was on Monday, and we thought we’d take a minute to review the case.Grace after being rescued and fed food she could actually eat.

The good news is that the two women charged in the case will both be facing jail time.  Teresa Ann Dicke was sentenced to 8 months and Linda Diane Fessenden to 90 days.  While these sentences may not sound long enough to anyone who saw Grace’s condition when she was rescued, they’re much longer than what is typical in an animal neglect case.  So yay for setting new precedent!

Another positive thing from this case is that Grace was seized immediately, to give her the best chance at recovery.  When we say immediately, we mean it – the officer didn’t even wait for a warrant!  This actually set new precedent as well.  The defendants tried to challenge the use of Grace as evidence, claiming she had been seized illegally and was therefore inadmissable in court.  The law allows for such intervention when a human life is at stake, but was unclear in regards to animals.  Now, in Oregan state at least, there is precedent for it applying to animals as well.  So yay for that too!

The bad news in this case is that the two defendants are still allowed to own horses. WTF, right?  While case law states that they can (and have been!) banned from owning pets, horses are considered livestock, and the ban doesn’t apply to them.  Although we’re very happy that cats and dogs are safe from these two, it seems incredibly illogical that the ban wouldn’t apply to whatever type of animal was actually involved in the neglect case.

Unfortunately, it’s rare to have an officer act as quickly as one did in Grace’s case.  This is mostly because of the legal issues surrounding seizing an animal.

In Michigan recently, twelve malnourished horses were seized.  The article states that animal control worked with the owner for months in an attempt to get the horses in better shape while still in the owner’s care.  We agree that if an owner is cooperative, sometimes education alone can be effective.  But these horses were not only skinny, they were suffering from various medical ailments as well – ranging from missing eyes to leg deformities!  When the horses were finally seized, not only had their condition not improved, but a horse skeleton was found on the property.  Surely in this case there was cause to act quickly?

We’re not trying to promote vigilantism or put down the entire justice system, but cases like these make us really wish for a large injection of common sense into the whole process!


About snarkyrider

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Posted on October 26, 2011, in Featured Rescues, horse and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Thanks for sharing! I am just horrified by the mistreatment of any animal! Why have one if you won’t take care of it?

  2. It seems like pretty much all laws in regards to the well-being of animals are in need of a huge overhaul. I tend to think of our legal system as being fairly decent overall, but animal abuse laws up here in Canada are pretty damn crappy (I don’t know all the details though, I’m just going off things I’ve heard from news articles, and don’t know of any recent changes). The maximum sentence for animal abuse is something like 90 days in jail and a fine (I can’t remember how much, but it’s not a heck of a lot), and I believe animals can only be seized due to neglect if there’s no food or water available, so all they have to do is throw out a hay bale and fill the water trough if somebody comes by to inspect.

    I do think our ban on owning pets for convicted abusers applies to ALL animals though, so that’s one plus at least. But unfortunately, every time I hear of a ban, it’s temporary (usually 2 years, I think).

    Anyone who knows more, feel free to correct me, but from what I’ve heard, our animal laws are pretty abysmal.

    • The laws in Portugal are much, much worse. I don’t know what the maximum sentence is, but it doesn’t involve jail time that’s for sure. And, if I’m not mistaken, there is no such thing as a ban from owning animals here.

      The upside is there are no many cases of abuse and neglect of horses, however we have plenty of horror stories regarding cats and dogs.

  3. Love the precedents set in this case. I agree that the sentences the women received were too light, but it’s a step in the right direction, and that’s what matters here. It’s a good move forward. It’s extremely unfortunate that the women are still allowed to own horses, but hopefully they’ll smarten up and NOT own anymore. Or, if they do end up with horses, they’ll be watched closely. Personally, I think those found guilty of abuse/neglect should be prohibited from owning ANY animal, especially those that they’ve mistreated in the past. That is the only way to prevent a occurrence OR have grounds for rearrest if they are found in possession of an animal.

    It’s ridiculous that animals can’t be immediately seized if they’re in such horrible condition. A life is a life, no matter if it’s human or animal. In cases like this, immediate action is the difference between life and death, and the animals need to be seized at once to give them the best chance at recovery. This is probably the best precedent to come from this case. The police acted immediately, and the guilty were sentenced. Hopefully this will encourage more officers and law enforcement to make the quick decisions that need to be made.

  4. I think it’s silly to keep horses categorized as livestock these days when they are more often companion animals and recreation animals than working animals. Especially with the closure of slaughter plants. Does anyone know what the definition of livestock is exactly?

    • It changes depending on the area. Every country and every state has a different designation. I think the big difference between pets vs. livestock is whether they are (or can be) kept in the home. But I think in the case of someone who’s been shown to not provide sufficient care for their animals it shouldn’t matter what kind of animal it is – just have a blanket ban against animal ownership period!

  5. Yay for precedents! Anyone one up for a celebration on friday? 😀

    But, seriously, categorizing horses as livestock instead of companion animals?? WTF?!

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