Man charged after allegedly hacking opossum to death
A Lake of the Pines man has been charged with felony cruelty to animals after he allegedly was videotaped hacking an opossum to death and posted the footage on the Internet.
Carter Livingston, 19, allegedly posted a video on Facebook that showed him hitting the opossum 44 times with a meat cleaver as four juveniles looked on.
“This is a particularly egregious case of animal cruelty,” said Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell, explaining why Livingston was charged with a felony. He could face as many as three years in prison if convicted.
The alleged torture of the trapped opossum came to light after someone who saw the video notified the San Diego Humane Society; Livingston is a former resident of Vista, in San Diego County.
An investigator contacted Nevada County Animal Control after he discovered the Livingstons had moved to Lake of the Pines and the video was made there, said San Diego Humane Society spokeswoman Candace Eley.
The “disturbing” video was all local authorities needed to file a case, said Animal Control Officer Bruce Baggett.
“I did not interview him. I didn’t need to,” Baggett said. “Everything was on Facebook.”
Livingston was interviewed by the San Diego County investigator, Eley said.
“His explanation was the possum had been pestering the family for a few weeks, it had been getting into the garbage and startling the younger kids,” she said. “He looked at it as pest removal.”
But authorities from both counties agreed the killing of the opossum went far beyond a swift and humane dispatch of a pest.
“Killing an animal is one thing,” Newell said. “There are certain instances where it might be necessary. But to kill it with such calculated cruelty deserves felony treatment.”
The decision to videotape the killing appeared to be premeditated, Baggett said.
“The scene was preset, it appeared there was a hole that was dug and the video camera was already going,” he said. “One of the (juveniles) actually had the possum in a small garbage can. (He) had a catch pole, a homemade one that he had the possum held by.
“He held it in place while Carter beat it to death,” Baggett added. “It took well over two minutes for the animal to die after the first hit, because the cleaver was dull.”
The carcass of the opossum was seized and a necropsy was performed that showed it died from multiple fractures and trauma to the head, Baggett said.
“It was apparent (the opossum) was trying to get away, not come at them,” Baggett said. “That made it disturbing. I’ve never heard a possum make a noise before, but this one did. It squealed … This almost made us start shedding tears. It was awful.”
At this point, the juveniles involved have not been charged, Newell said.
Livingston is set for arraignment at 8:45 a.m. Sept. 20.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4229.
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