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November 17, 2010

Animal creulty sentence of 12 years in prison stirring debate in Puerto Rico

As detailed in this AP article, in Puerto Rico a "12-year prison sentence for a man who dragged a horse behind his truck has touched off a debate over whether a new animal cruelty law goes too far, when even homicide can result in lighter penalties." Here is more about the case and the controversy:

Georgenan Lopez, who is in his early 20s, is the first person convicted by a jury under the law implemented in August 2008 in response to complaints that the island is indifferent to cruel treatment of animals.

The criticism gained traction - and publicity - in 2007 when authorities seized dozens of dogs from public housing projects and threw them to their deaths from a bridge.

Lopez's attorney said Wednesday that he will appeal, calling the sentence excessive, unusual and cruel, since convictions for crimes like second-degree murder often yield lesser sentences. "They are comparing an animal to a human being," lawyer Julian Claudio said. "The animal didn't even die."

Prosecutor Andres Fernandez said the horse was dragged for about 15 minutes behind the truck as it tried to keep its balance and kept falling down. He said it had a rope around its neck that was tied to the vehicle. He declined to comment on the sentence except to say that the judge was following the law.

Osvaldo Toledo, president of Puerto Rico's Association of Attorneys, said the length of the sentence in a case where the animal survived sets a dangerous precedent.... Toledo added that he would ask lawmakers to review the animal cruelty law to ensure that penalties are in line with the crime.

According to a transcript of the sentencing, Judge Jose Montijo told Lopez he had an attitude problem and did not communicate well with people, and noted that the accused faced burglary and drug charges previously....

Since the dragging incident last February, the mare has gained weight but still limps and can never be ridden, said Lisa Embree, who runs a horse rescue group in northwest Puerto Rico that adopted the animal, dubbed "Little Miracles." She said she feels sorry for Lopez's family, but praised the tough sentence as an important measure to reduce animal abuse.

November 17, 2010 at 10:28 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I think that more jurisdictions should adopt tougher animal abuse laws, similar to Puerto Rico's...although I'm probably in the minority with that view, and it might not ever actually happen...

Why is it relevant that the animal survived? I mean, why is it relevant to the act requirements of the offense of torturing the animal?

If it were a person, the fact that the person died while/after being tortured would likely lead to an entirely different charge (some sort of homicide), in addition to the torture charges.

Their complaints about these punishments being worse than those for 2nd degree murder are interesting. With 2nd degree murder--isn't it often the case that the person was deemed to have killed someone without 'premeditation'?

It seems to me that torture would require a far worse intent than many second-degree killings. The very act of torture implies something happening intentionally.

Posted by: Katie Zeitler | Nov 21, 2010 8:13:28 AM

Also, the fact that the judge noted Lopez's history of previous convictions reminds me of what some cities in the U.S. are doing lately with dog fighting offenses--recognizing that dog fighting is often part of a larger network of gangs, drugs, violence, guns, etc. And, also recognizing that those who abuse animals often go on to commit "worse" offenses--that is, offenses against humans.

It's an interesting argument--explaining the focus on animal welfare through its connection to human conduct. But it's probably an argument with more widespread appeal than animal welfare for its own sake.

Posted by: Katie Zeitler | Nov 21, 2010 8:16:06 AM

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