Kathy Monteiro: Continuing the campaign against animal abuse
Over four years ago, local animal rescue groups and individual animal advocates met to begin a grass roots movement against animal abuse in Nevada County.
Local government officials agreed to participate, including District Attorney Clifford Newell, and Sheriff Keith Royal, the head of Animal Control.
In a joint effort and in meetings, the community vowed to support Animal Control and the DA’s office in this effort, and both departments opened lines of communication to more successfully investigate and prosecute these cases. The animal advocates also met with and sponsored forums for political candidates including judges, to voice their concerns for justice and tough sentencing for animal abusers. This cooperative effort has accomplished great strides, with more goals to reach.
Two recent animal cruelty cases should be noted:
Previously convicted animal abuser Louis Silva of Smartsville was charged again last August with felony animal cruelty concerning the alleged neglect and subsequent death of his donkey.
In 2011, Mr. Silva was charged with felony animal cruelty when a multitude of animals were found dead, suffering, and dying on his same property. Between 2007 and 2010 Animal Control was called to his property nine times, responding to reports of animal neglect/abuse and his neighbors even testified against him at trial. The DA successfully prosecuted and won two misdemeanor guilty verdicts. Mr. Silva’s sentence included community service, (suspended) jail time, a course in the care of animals, and probation for three years.
The statute for a cruelty conviction also allows prohibiting the abuser from future animal ownership. But the judge did not impose this restriction, and tragically now, Mr. Silva has been charged with the same crime and another animal in his care is dead. This should be a lesson for the court for future sentencing and plea agreements: a convicted animal abuser will not suddenly become kind and sensitive to animals and should not be allowed to own any animals in the future, just as anyone who abuses the elderly should not be given a license to ever manage or own a senior nursing facility, nor should a child molester ever be allowed to own or manage a school.
These obvious restrictions concerning other abusers who prey on the helpless, must also be applied to those who inflict torture or death on animals.
The other case of felony animal cruelty pertains to Nicholas Chittock. Mr. Chittock’s family has owned Simply Feed stores for three generations. Animal control was notified and reportedly found hundreds of birds sick, dead, and dying and a piglet was also suffering. While the Chittock family has had loyal and supportive customers with no previous issues of cruelty reported, it does not excuse what allegedly happened to these animals. If it is proven that someone was not properly overseeing their care, whether intentionally or irresponsibly, cruelty resulting in suffering and death cannot be tolerated. Not only is it morally wrong but it is against the law.
Animal abuse puts a burden on local rescue groups like Sammie’s Friends and Animal Place, which step up to care for the neglected animals. Cruelty cases also cost taxpayers thousands of dollars that could go to meaningful programs.
Animal advocates passionately feel the calling to stand up for animals, because animals have no legal or court advocates and cannot speak for themselves. They are also the same people supporting the homeless, children’s charities, substance abuse programs, food banks, women’s causes, the blind, and their churches.
There is still work to do to improve the conditions and protections for animals locally, but the community can be proud to know that there are citizens, rescue groups, local officials and Animal Control officers who give of their time, resources and heart to make our community an example to others. Please help by reporting suspected abuse, volunteering, or joining a rescue group or CAWS.
Please thank and encourage DA Clifford Newell and Animal Control for their diligence, and more importantly, make your voice heard by voting for county officials who believe that we can and should make a difference for our animals.
Kathy Monteiro is the director of the Coalition of Animal Welfare and Support.
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