Opossum case renews effort to strengthen law

Escrito por Nuria Querol i Viñas. Publicado en News in English.

Another bid to strengthen Iowa's animal torture laws is likely to surface in 2006 following a nationally publicized case in Fort Dodge, where three men pleaded guilty of setting opossums on fire.
   

Opossum case renews effort to strengthen law


The Fort Dodge incident has stirred some people to urge making first-offense animal torture a felony.


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REGISTER AMES BUREAU

December 6, 2005


Another bid to strengthen Iowa's animal torture laws is likely to surface in 2006 following a nationally publicized case in Fort Dodge, where three men pleaded guilty of setting opossums on fire.

Anthony Herrington, Kevin Calderon and David Bendickson are scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in Fort Dodge. The three men lit the animals on fire and shot the action on video in June, according to court documents.

Tom Colvin , executive director of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, said he plans to attend the sentencing and is pushing state leaders change the animal torture laws in response to the case.

"I hope there are legislators that want to step forth and get this cleaned up," he said. "Let's get this first-offense felony."

The matter in Fort Dodge reached authorities after the girlfriend of an employee at the Rochester, N.Y.-based humor Web site eBaumsworld.com found the video as a submission. It later was passed to authorities and animal rights organizations.

State Sen. Matt McCoy, a Des Moines Democrat, said he has written legislation that would make animal cruelty a Class D felony on the first offense.

He said he plans to introduce it during the session that begins in January.

That's different from current law, which doesn't make it a felony until the second offense, he said.

McCoy's legislation would also require mandatory counseling and a psychological evaluation for defendants, he said.

The opossum burning was a "disgusting and despicable act," he said. "I think we need to send a message that we're not going to tolerate it."

In 1999, lawmakers took up a similar debate on whether to make animal cruelty a felony with a five-year prison term in response to a 1997 cat massacre at a Fairfield animal shelter. The two teenagers convicted were sentenced to 23 days in jail.

During the debate, several lawmakers said they were concerned that the proposed animal torture penalties would be harsher than those for abusing a spouse or a child.

In 2000, the Legislature approved the law that makes animal torture a felony on the second offense.

State Sen. Daryl Beall , a Democrat from Fort Dodge, echoed some of the past concerns about strengthening the law, but still said more needs to be done.

"There is a certain sentiment to strengthen the law, but not to the extent to what similar treatment of a human being would be," Beall said. "That's the balancing act we would look at."