Justice for the Washer Rats!
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I am seeking higher charges in the case against Darlissa Freeman and her minor daughter for their role in the death of the rats placed in a washing machine on April 11th, 2015. Currently, she is being charged with cruel treatment to animals. The court denied the higher charges of aggravated cruelty and torture and I believe that the courts should reconsider this higher charge.
Ms. Freeman is being charged cruel treatment (510ILCS70/3.01). These charges are for basic animal abuse, not the extreme torture (and resulting death) that the rats suffered on that day.
The charges they are getting
(510 ILCS 70/3.01) (from Ch. 8, par. 703.01)
Sec. 3.01. Cruel treatment. No person or owner may beat, cruelly treat, torment, starve, overwork or otherwise abuse any animal.
No owner may abandon any animal where it may become a public charge or may suffer injury, hunger or exposure.
A person convicted of violating this Section is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. A second or subsequent conviction for a violation of this Section is a Class 4 felony. In addition to any other penalty provided by law, upon conviction for violating this Section, the court may order the convicted person to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and to undergo any treatment at the convicted person's expense that the court determines to be appropriate after due consideration of the evidence. If the convicted person is a juvenile or a companion animal hoarder, the court must order the convicted person to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation and to undergo treatment that the court determines to be appropriate after due consideration of the evaluation.
(Source: P.A. 92-650, eff. 7-11-02.
The denied charges
(510 ILCS 70/3.02)
Sec. 3.02. Aggravated cruelty.
(a) No person may intentionally commit an act that causes a companion animal to suffer serious injury or death. Aggravated cruelty does not include euthanasia of a companion animal through recognized methods approved by the Department of Agriculture unless prohibited under subsection (b).
(b) No individual, except a licensed veterinarian as exempted under Section 3.09, may knowingly or intentionally euthanize or authorize the euthanasia of a companion animal by use of carbon monoxide.
(Source: P.A. 96-780, eff. 8-28-09.)
510 ILCS 70/3.03)
Sec. 3.03. Animal torture.
(a) A person commits animal torture when that person without legal justification knowingly or intentionally tortures an animal. For purposes of this Section, and subject to subsection (b), "torture" means infliction of or subjection to extreme physical pain, motivated by an intent to increase or prolong the pain, suffering, or agony of the animal.
(Source: P.A. 91-351, eff. 7-29-99; 92-650, eff. 7-11-02.)
The difference is a misdemeanor or a felony. The acts committed by these two individuals, Darlissa Freeman and her minor child, were horrific. I cannot imagine the pain those rats felt during their deaths. The rats would not have died quickly. The rats were put into a top loading washing machine, and the wash cycle selected. Most wash cycles start out with hot water, so that water could of been 100+ to 120 degrees (the basic setting of a hot water heater). As the drum slowly filled up with water, the rats would have panicked, trying to find a way to get out. Depending on the cycle selected the rats would have had a major decrease in body temperature (if cold water was used) or a major increase in body temperature (if hot water was used). If hot water was used, the water could even scald or burn the rats skin. A standard top-loading washing machine can typically spin up to 800 revolutions per minute (rpm) and a typical wash cycle can run 25 to 35 minutes. This means that these rats were exposed to water that could scald, freeze and/or drown them, then were agitated in the wash cycle and finally spun with enough force to push the rats battered bodies against the sides of the drum. This would have happened multiple times during the wash cycle. This is not basic animal cruelty. These rats were tortured in the washing machine until they died. As if the act itself was not bad enough, the accused also proudly placed videos of their actions on Facebook, laughing at how they treated innocent lives.
Although the accused may not have considered the rats as companion pets, many people keep them as such and love them as they would a cat or dog. I have rats as companion pets and they are friendly, intelligent and love attention from their owners. If you watch the posted video you will see that the rats in the washing machine looked up to the camera as a dog or cat would, with fear in their eyes, pleading for help. I am fighting for justice for these lives lost just as I would if this happened to a dog, a cat or a human. There is no difference between our pet rats and other, more traditional pets. They all need the same protection. It is unfair for those charges to be less because they are rats. If a cat or dog were placed and killed in that washing machine, the accused would be charged with the higher charges. Pet rats are equally as important as any other animal that is considered a companion pet. The pet rat community is growing at a rapid rate, as people begin to discover how interacting, caring and intelligent pet rats are. You can even purchase many accessories for a rat at a pet store including: food, cages, toys, houses and numerous other things geared specifically to pet rats.
By law, a "companion animal" is defined as an animal that is commonly considered to be, or is considered by the owner to be, a pet. Just because she did not consider them pets does not mean a larger majority of owners do not consider them to be pets. I, and many others, consider our rats as pets, or, even better, a part of our family. That is the key here, rats are commonly known as pets. There are rescues for rats, adoptions for rats, veterinarians for rats and breeders for rats. There is no difference between a pet rat and a feeder rat. They are all from domesticated pet rat lines. We spay and neuter our rats just as any other animal to stop over population.
Your ruling in this matter will have a place amongst local precedent. To allow this blatant act of torture to be defined by and punished under the sentencing guidelines for the minor charge of simple abuse is to tell every abuser in town that they can get away with animal torture for little more than a misdemeanor on their record. In a time when rats are becoming more popular and common as pets, the ruling on this case is of utmost importance in setting the precedent of future cases involving cruelty/torture to rats. It is inevitable - as rats become more commonplace as pets, they will undoubtedly become more available and widely used by animal abusers and torturers, and subsequently be the sad subjects of more animal cruelty cases heard by the courts. Now is the time to send a clear message: torture to rats will be treated just as seriously as cases involving cat/dog torture.
Please charge the accused with the correct charges. The accused should be facing aggravated cruelty and torture charges because what they did was just that. These rats died a horrific death at the hands of their owners. Thirty minutes in hot or cold water, rotating at 800 rpm is pure torture not abuse. Please do not choose to interpret her actions as anything other than what they were - torture.
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