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Abuse an animal, go to jail?

The news media is good at reporting on acts of cruelty to animals, but we don’t always learn what happened to the individual who was arrested. Court cases often drag on for months; it is understandable for the media to move on to the next story. But recently we learned of the conclusion of two criminal cases. Although sentences for animal cruelty are rarely strong enough, the sentences were among the toughest we’ve heard about this year.

On Monday, a man in Hillsborough County was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for shooting two of his dogs and choking to death another. Prosecutors said that Benjamin Boatwright killed the dogs to frighten his girlfriend (Boatwright has a history of domestic violence arrests). His prison sentence will be followed by five years probation, and he cannot own any dogs.

It is important that animal advocates pressure law enforcement to make arrests, and demand that prosecutors push for strong sentences, but it may be just as important to speak out at the conclusion of an animal cruelty case. Circuit Judge Daniel Sleet sentenced Boatwright. Please send him a quick thank you note for taking animal cruelty seriously. (Writing a letter to the newspaper is also a great way to publicly thank the judge and prosecutor; click here for tips.)

The Honorable Daniel H. Sleet
801 E. Twiggs Street, Room 612-Tower
Tampa, FL 33602
Phone: (813) 272-6874

In another interesting case, 18-year-old Joshua Wayne Douglas, of Pensacola, was sentenced to 120 days in jail and fined $1,000 for illegally killing three fawns on Christmas Eve. It was his second arrest in two months for shooting deer illegally or at night. Douglas also forfeited the shotgun used to kill the deer, and perhaps most significant, his hunting privileges were revoked for life! (Florida is a member of the “Wildlife Violator Compact,” which means that Douglas is also prohibited from hunting ever again in Georgia and more than 20 other member states.)

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