Animal Law Update: Oregon Supreme Court Determines Animals Can Be Considered Crime Victims
By Phil Guidry, Senior Policy Analyst, AKC Government Relations
In a recently issued opinion, the Oregon Supreme Court held that animals are the victims of animal cruelty crimes. While that decision may sound like common sense to most people, the opinion substantiates a considerable amount of thought on the purpose of the state’s animal cruelty laws.
BACKGROUND: The case resulted from a tip that led to the discovery of dozens of emaciated horses and goats on the defendant’s farm. A jury convicted the defendant of 20 counts of second-degree animal neglect. At the sentencing hearing, the state asked the trial court to impose 20 separate convictions because, they reasoned, the jury found the defendant guilty of neglecting 20 different animals. However, under Oregon law, courts are permitted to “merge” multiple guilty verdicts stemming from a single criminal episode into a single conviction, unless the criminal episode resulted in two or more victims.
The trial court concluded that only people can be “victims” within the meaning of the criminal statute, and as such the defendant had committed only one punishable offense. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s sentencing decision, holding that animals can be victims. The defendant then appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court, arguing that the meaning of the word “victim” includes only people—not animals—and that the victims of animal neglect cases are either the public or the owner of the animal. The state countered that the ordinary meaning of the word “victim” refers to both animals and humans, and that the text and history of the criminal statute demonstrate the legislature’s intent to protect individual animals from suffering.
The issue confronting the Oregon Supreme Court was limited to whether animals could be considered “victims” for the purposes of sentencing under the animal neglect statute. If so, then the counts against the defendant would not be able to be merged and he could be sentenced for 20 separate convictions. (The narrow focus of the issue in question did not impact the legal status of animals as property, which the court explicitly emphasized.)
The court’s decision hinged on the technical aspects of statutory construction and history. In considering the issue, the Oregon Supreme Court first assumed that the state’s legislature intended that the wording of the law be given its ordinary meaning since it found no evidence of a contrary legislative intent. (This is an often-used method of reasoning employed by courts when trying to figure out a legislature’s intent behind a law.) In light of this, the court found that the ordinary meaning of the word “victim” was indeed capable of referring either to human beings or animals, or both.
Next, the court focused on whom or what suffered the harm that the underlying animal neglect statute makes criminal. It found that the phrasing of the statute revealed that the legislature’s focus was indeed the treatment of individual animals, not (as the defendant argued) harm to the public generally or harm to the owners.
Further, the court considered the historical focus of the state’s century-old animal cruelty laws, and articulated that the second-degree animal neglect statute was part of a more comprehensive set of offenses concerning insufficient animal care that are structured to address the entire extent of animal suffering. The court held that for each of these laws, the offense is without a doubt committed against an animal, with the relative seriousness of the offense evaluated in line with the relative degree of harm inflicted upon that animal.
In summarizing that animals are the victims in this context, the court reasoned that the defendant’s argument that owners are the victims under the animal abuse statutes could well lead to an inconsistency—that, if the owners themselves had been convicted of negligent treatment of their animals, owners could be both violator and victim in the same case.
The opinion, written by Justice Jack L. Landau, limits the court’s decision to the interpretation of the underlying animal negligence statute. As explicitly reiterated in the opinion, Oregon law continues to regard animals as the property of their owner.
Taking a good hard look at this:
If animals are now victims with special emphasis on animal as property; owners of animals would then also be considered victims of laws designed to protect property and therefore under such circumstance anyone accused of animal cruelty can then hold those responsible for the seizure for the loss of property by enforcing the cruelty law. Sounds absurd, it’s not with the standards used today to seize animals especially when the charge of cruelty is trumped-up with unreasonable, unlawful, and unconstitutional moral judgment when actual cruelty never existed. Furthermore, the NFP awarded the property could actually be found breaking the law with the sells of the animals (their newly found property and merchandize) and at the same time expecting the owner to pay for the care of the property. And taking this one step further, after the same NFO has sold the animals, collected money as a donation for the care of the property, what money is not used could actually then be considered as the money owned to the owner as the donations were collected BEFORE the animals were awarded to that NFP and therefore any money not used during that collection just might be required to be given to the owner. Currently, the courts are not requiring these NFP to keep track of the donations or the actually money used for the care of the animals before being awarded the animals. Seems reasonable to me considering the hundreds of thousands of dollars collected and the large unreasonable bill presented to the court with no accountability for actual costs and actual money collected.
Now, what about cases where there was no actual criminal conviction and the state keeps those animals anyway?!? Wouldn’t the court then consider the accused but guilty of no crime-whether by the court, charges dropped, no actual charges of cruelty, then it becomes truly obvious as to who the actual victim of the cruelty law is-Well of course they would have to conclude that the true victim is the owner is such cases!!! And believe me there are many, as a victim and my animals the victims with no charges and guilty of nothing yet, the animals have suffered, the animals killed in the process VICTIMS of the cruelty law-still owned by me.
What about the owner who has been deceived by the court and not properly informed as to why they are in court whether criminal or civil…Things are often not what they appear to be in such cases, especially in the media, with faulty warrants and rescues taking animals based on opinion as the evidence as no actually evidence of cruelty ever existed and if there was no actually cruelty; and there no actual evidence, there is no only actual evidence that can be documented as actual in intentional cruelty as these laws were written to prevent.
Looked like shit,
smelled like shit,
tasted like shit
just shouldn’t be allowed as evidence as it can not be verified that it was shit without the evidence
and yes that’s happening in most of these cases. Just as size of transport cages and holding cages to protect animals in crisis whether it be the weather, fire or any other reason (Act of God) that might put an animal in harms way, now held by any means possible for their protection can NOT be judged as cruelty to animals especially when they keep those animals in the very same cages for transport and care claiming it’s all they have to provide. Judgments based on opinion and not facts to the case become void just s the ruling of a judge who has no jurisdiction to even hear a case. Actually happened and now on appeal in federal court as the district court wrongly gave summary judgment in the case with no hearing and based on nothing but his opinion and no facts of the case without meeting the criteria for summary judgment to end the case.
Animals that appear healthy usually are healthy and can not be magically cured in a short period of time when there was nothing wrong with them to begin with are the true victims of the cruelty law as well as the owner as stated with this ruling!!! Watch out when accusing people of a crime that never existed comes back fighting-This ruling makes it obvious who will win and should win in the long run to seek restitution for having accused the innocent for something hat never existed…even the convicted now have a means to seek restitution.
Private Citizens and/or NFP organization who instead of helping have victimized the owner of the animals, the animals themselves and gained from the process can now be held responsible with this ruling. Who Knew-SO SIMPLE!!! Everything done to the owner during that process is VICTIMIZING the owner who has been wrongly accused-guilty or not.
STOP STEALING ANIMALS FROM THEIR RIGHTFUL OWNERS
Stop pursuing these unlawful and unconstitutional laws where the government has no interest.
Disclaimer connected to this blog…Things said are of my opinion and the opinions of others…Stay tuned -B
Justin at *Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, Inc., Kendalia, Texas -September 2011-old picture, re-used several times. Justin is a trained Celebes macaque-value approximately $20,000.00 has been held in jail since March 27, 2010 and will likely never be returned to his owner yet we know what he’s thinking considering the sharp contrast from the life he was accustom to the life he has now in this Hell-Hole.
“So this is sanctuary huh?!? Beats me -I just want to go home!!! It’s dirty here, my mom never would have forced me to live like this…I miss mom’s hugs and kisses-Can I go home now?!? Really, I didn’t do anything wrong and neither did she!!! That CRAZY woman did this to me-I don’t like “sanctuary” -PLEASE let me go home where I was loved and had a nice place to sleep and my own TV and toys-Where’s the grass?!? Where’s my mom!?!”
Reminder-Disclaimer connected to this blog…Things said are of my opinion and the opinions of others…Other animals that were placed in sp called ‘sanctuary'; continue to suffer or have died since-Many were killed in the process with no medical testing, no permission from the judge and certainly without our permission-We wait for our 15 minutes to appear before the appeals court…
This ruling from the Oregon Supreme Court demonstrates that owners are victims as we remain in extreme duress from what occurred and knowing what happened to our animals then and since that time…Guilty of no crime!!! It’s beyond time for the truth to be exposed once and for all!!!