If you’ve been following along with the PSAs on the slaughter issue, you will have heard all their standard arguments many times. One of their favorite ones is that they should have the right to do as they wish with their property, which they consider their horses to be. I kinda punched a hole in that argument awhile ago, but as usual, it didn’t register with a single one of them. (https://shedrowconfessions.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/a-little-lesson-on-anatomy-and-the-english-language/). Basically, property is defined as things or belongings, buildings and/or land. In other words, inanimate objects. You can own a horse, but that horse will never be property. Which means, that there are laws outlining how that animal is to be treated and used to a degree. Depending on where you live, they may or may not be enforced with some consistency. Standard behavior for a PSA is if you don’t like the truth, just create your own version of it and proclaim it as fact. Unfortunately for them, they may have hit a rather large snag in that argument this week.
This week, the Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that animals can considered to be `victims of crime’ in an abuse and neglect case. (http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Ore-court-rules-animals-aren-t-just-property-3757952.php#src=fb). This ruling stemmed from charges laid against Arnold Nix in April of 2009. The Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office acted on a tip and found dozens of starving animals on Nix’s farm. They ended up seizing 69 animals, including 43 goats, 24 horses and two dogs. There were also several dead and decomposing animals strewn about the property. Nix was originally charged with 93 separate counts of first degree animal neglect, with the jury finding him guilty on 20 accounts of second degree animal abuse at trial. Each count represented a specific horse and the maximum sentence should have been six months in prison and a $2500 fine for each conviction. Strangely, at sentencing, the original judge Jeffrey Wallace, merged 19 of the 20 counts into one singular conviction. Nix was handed a 90 day jail term and three years probation during sentencing, but the jail sentence was suspended. During Nix’s original sentencing, the defense argued that the horses could not be victims of crime because they were `property’. In this case, the `victim’ was the State of Oregon. The rationale was that only people, corporations and government could be victims of a crime and the judge agreed, resulting in the singular conviction. Wallace stated that killing one or many horses was the same thing. If allowed to stand, this would set a dangerous precedent in prosecuting future cases involving numerous animals such as hoarding.
Thankfully, the animals had an advocate on the state’s team and this story didn’t end in frustration like so many others. With Assistant Attorney General, Jamie Contreras arguing for the state and Scott Heisler filing the brief amicus curae (which means as a friend of the court) for the Animal Legal Defense Fund (http://www.aldf.org/article.php?id=1606), Nix’s case went back to court on appeal in December of 2011. The state argued that animals can be victims as they are sentient beings. I’m way over-simplifying this but you can read the entire submission here: (http://www.scribd.com/doc/101950477/STATE-OF-OREGON-v-ARNOLD-WELDON-NIX). The end results is that, among other things, the court ruled that each animal identified in each of the counts that Nix was convicted of qualifies as a separate victim for the purposes of sentencing and Wallace should not have merged counts in the original sentencing. Nix will now be scheduled for sentencing on 20 separate counts of abuse on a yet to be determined date. The DA office is also considering filing a separate case of neglect against Nix.
So what does this all mean? It means that in Oregon, at least, there may finally be real and significant penalties for animal abuse and neglect. This is exactly the sort of thing we need to address the suffering and neglect that horses and, to be fair, many other animals face. Rather than opening up slaughter houses and sweeping the issue under the carpet, people are going to be held responsible. Animals are not `things’ and this is a huge step towards making sure they are treated as the sentient beings they are. Do you know what else? I’ m willing to wager that Nix is such an asshat, that having a slaughter-house open, wouldn’t have changed a single thing. The PSAs want everybody to believe that prior to 2007, this sort of thing never happened. Of course that is not true. People have always abused and neglected animals and sadly, they always will. Slaughter didn’t fix it because mostly people were given slaps on the wrists for abusing animals and abusers aren’t necessarily the people that send to slaughter. Finally, with horses being recognized as victims, we are on the road to recovery. Another thing; Does anybody honestly believe that once those horses were seized, that they would have been turned over to the UH’s Rescue and Fatten Up for Slaughter Program? D-Bag Duquette thinks that their program will take in horses that are seized by authorities. Can you just imagine the headlines on that one? Me either…..