Animal abusers could soon find themselves in a lot more trouble if they're caught in Nashville. It comes after a case that garnered plenty of attention about a year ago.
Last winter, Metro Animal Care and Control was called when a pit bull named Jada and her brother, Junior, were found abandoned in the cold and on the verge of death.
"They found two dogs. One was a black-and-white pit bull named Junior who had a cable that had embedded itself so far into his neck that he was on the verge of cutting through the muscle in the throat," said assistant district attorney Shannon Poindexter.
In most of these cases, the owner would have been issued a misdemeanor citation and forced to make an appearance in environmental court. But this case marked an official turning point.
"It was one of the most severe and most serious cases we had seen in quite some time. When I delved into the case, I realized that cases like this needed to be pursued more seriously than they might be otherwise," Poindexter said.
That's when animal control and the district attorney's office began to develop a new process for making sure horrible cases like this one wouldn't go unpunished.
"A case like this is serious enough that it should be handled in criminal court as a felony offense," Poindexter said.
Animal control officers agree.
"What we see on a daily basis, somebody should do some jail time for some of the stuff we see," said Metro Animal Control officer Billy Biggs.
Over the past 11 months, prosecutors have been working closely with officers to make sure the worst cases don't get overlooked.
"The field officers now all have my office number when they have cases that they think are serious enough that they would like to see more serious repercussions. They're calling me, e-mailing me and they're putting together good case files for me," Poindexter said.
It may not stop animal abuse altogether, but it's at least a start.
"Me being a true animal lover, I don't think they do enough to fix the problem, but we're working on it," Biggs said.
After a conviction, prosecutors are also asking that Metro be reimbursed for the money spent caring for these abused animals.
In the case of last year's animal abuse, Junior died from his injuries, but Metro estimates that about $6,000 was spent on caring for Jada. That's money they now hope to recoup.
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