August 3, 2012 in City, Health
Animals can be victims, court rules
PENDLETON, Ore. – Animals can be considered victims of crime, the Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled in a neglect case from Umatilla County.
The ruling handed down Wednesday sends a Stanfield man to face sentencing on 20 counts of second-degree animal abuse.
Scott A. Heiser of the Animal Legal Defense Fund called the ruling a “significant result” for authorities who go after animal neglect and abuse cases.
A tip led the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office to arrest 68-year-old Arnold Weldon Nix at his farm in April 2009. Officers found “dozens of emaciated animals, mostly horses and goats, and several animal carcasses in various states of decay,” according to the court ruling.
A jury convicted Nix in March 2010, but Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Wallace merged the 20 counts into a single conviction.
The state pushed the case to the appeals court, which ruled that “the trial court erred in merging the guilty verdicts.”
Heiser, who filed a brief in support of the state’s position, said it’s rare for laws to allow animals to be victims. Most laws, including in Oregon, say people can be victims, as well as other entities, such as corporations, while animals are usually defined as property.
In its 15-page ruling, the court said, “It appears that the Legislature’s primary concern was to protect individual animals as sentient beings, rather than to vindicate a more generalized public interest in their welfare.”