Marc Appleton, a 30-year-old Gloucester man, has been charged with animal cruelty after allegedly breaking a dog’s leg. It is alleged that three witnesses heard the dog, which belonged to Appleton’s roommate, crying after two loud thumps. One neighbor told police that the dog was not outside until after the dog was heard crying. One witness found the dog in the bushes with a swollen leg and advised Appleton to take the dog to the animal hospital. This witness claims that Appleton admitted to “smacking” the dog after he discovered that it had chewed his DVD and urinated on the floor. Appleton allegedly told police that the dog was hit by a car. He denied hitting the dog. Appleton allegedly took the dog, a beagle mix named Buddy, to his roommate’s work place and told the roommate that the dog had been hit by a car. The two men took the dog to the hospital, and Appleton allegedly agreed to pay for the medical bills, which totaled $4,900.
Just weeks ago, John Dugan, another Gloucester man, was charged with animal cruelty after allegedly disemboweling his dog. In that case, prosecutors allege that Dugan, 26, killed the dog because it ate a large amount of heroin and then dumped its body behind a building. Police searched Dugan’s home and found a pit bull, an electronic scale, and plastic sandwich bags, items allegedly associated with drug distribution.
The cases referenced above will likely be prosecuted aggressively, and the defendants will need the help of experienced Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers. The government may take a hard-line approach because certain studies indicate that those who abuse animals are likely to become violent towards people down the line. Animal abuse is used by F.B.I. profilers as a major factor in assessing the likelihood of future violence.
Because of the reported link between abuse of animals and violence towards humans, state legislatures have been increasing animal cruelty penalties for years. Here in Massachusetts, the crime of cruelty to animals is governed by General Laws Chapter 272, section 77. It is punishable by up to 2 ½ years in the house of correction or up to 5 years in the state prison. Animal cruelty convictions also require forfeiture of the animal. The statute is drafted very broadly. The government does not have to prove that a defendant thought or knew that his actions were cruel. In addition to Chapter 272, section 7, various laws provide criminal penalties for improper treatment of specific animals, such as horses and police dogs. Chapter 272, section 80H provides that an operator of a motor vehicle that strikes, injures or kills a dog or a cat shall be punished by a fine if he or she fails to report the accident to the owner or to police. I