Prosecution of individuals participating/involved in animal torture

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Dorchester County Solicitor
David Pascoe
Solicitor, First Circuit, South Carolina
140 N. Main St #102
Summerville, SC 29483


Re: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Case 17-09-0684
(Sgt. Andrew Godowns)

Dear Mr. Pascoe:

We the undersigned are writing to encourage you to file felony charges pursuant to South Carolina Code of Laws 47-1-40(B) against the multiple defendants in the above-referenced case.  This case, more than any other, invites felony prosecution of all parties present at this indisputable torture of an opossum.  The perverse and undeniable torment of this animal has attracted the attention of people and organizations across the country because, sadly, it’s just as bad as it sounds.

This was no ordinary act of cruelty.  The defendants are all responsible for the repeated, vicious beating of an opossum inside a garage where the animal could not escape torment.  The circumstances are particularly heinous.  The opossum was used as a “baseball” and hit repeatedly with a baseball bat, thrown across the room, dangled before a dog, and ultimately unmercifully beaten to death.  The entire event was both videotaped and photographed by the involved parties and posted onto “Snapchat.”  Still photographs of the beating are still circulating on the internet.  Even those who may not have wielded the bat are wielding cameras and, in so doing, are encouraging the continued torture of the opossum.  All present are flat-out amused by the killing.  In the video, all defendants can be heard laughing and finding great pleasure in the torture.

While South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 47, Section 47-1-40(A) describes the rather generic “ill-treatment” of animals (such as depriving animals of food or shelter, or inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering) as a misdemeanor with a maximum 60 day sentence, it in no way covers the actions of these defendants.  Rather we look to the more specific Section 47-1-40(B) which prohibits torturing, tormenting, cruelly killing or inflicting excessive or repeated unnecessary pain or suffering.  The distinction is important.  While subsection (A) covers generic pain and suffering, only subsection (B) addresses excessive or repeated infliction of pain.  Moreover, subsection (B) prohibits “torture”, “torment”, “cruel killing”, “excessive pain or suffering”, “repeated pain or suffering” being inflicted upon an animal.  This subsection is a felony and mandates a 180 day minimum.  (We note that section 47-1-10 defines animal to include all living vertebrate creatures.)

The different intent, and application, of the subsections is patently clear.  While the “ill-treatment of animals” is a misdemeanor, there is an additional penalty when the animal is tortured, tormented, cruelly killed, or has excessive or repeated pain and suffering inflicted upon it.  The core of this subsection necessarily relies upon acts constituting torture/torment and acts which are repeated or excessive.  There can be no dispute that using an animal as a “baseball” and repeatedly bashing the animal with a wooden baseball bat before cruelly killing it is more than covered by this subsection.

The elements of this subsection can be established in at least seven various ways, any one  of which is sufficient to prove the offense.  The elements can be proven by showing torture, or torment, or cruel killing, or excessive pain, or excessive suffering, or repeated infliction of pain, or repeated infliction of suffering.

To “torture” (noun) is defined as the action of inflicting severe pain, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain.   As a verb, it is defined as to “inflict severe pain on.”  There can be no reasonable doubt that repeated beating by a bat inflicts severe pain.  From the laughing on the videotape it is also clear that the pain was inflicted for the pleasure of the parties involved and no other.

To “torment” (noun) is defined as severe physical or mental suffering.  As a verb, torment is to cause to experience severe physical suffering.  Again, the criteria for torment is clearly present by the repeated use of a bat.  The severe physical suffering continued until unmerciful death caused by this beating.

To “cruelly kill” is to willfully cause pain or suffering, or feeling no concern about it.  Not only did the defendants willfully and intentionally cause the pain and suffering by using the opossum as a baseball, they clearly felt no concern about it.  They were amused enough to laugh and post the torture on the internet.

“Excessive pain” is pain which is more than necessary, normal or desirable.  This opossum experienced much more pain than any animal should have to endure.  Similarly, “excessive suffering” is that suffering which is more than necessary.  This entire event was unnecessary, and all the suffering was unnecessary.  The continued suffering here is malicious.

“Repeated infliction of pain” is simply inflicting pain more than once.  “Repeated infliction of suffering” is identical: inflicting suffering more than once.  It is undisputed that the baseball bat hits were more than one.  It was a repeated, continuous torture.  If the opossum had been killed by one swift blow and in a non-cruel manner then we would not be having this discussion.  However that is far from what has occurred here.  

In short, this opossum suffered repeated, persistent, merciless pain.  The pain and suffering inflicted upon the opossum goes far beyond anything tolerable in a decent society.  This is not “generic” animal suffering, this is specific torture and torment.  We encourage and support the filing of felony charges in this case.  Please show the country that South Carolina will not tolerate such flagrant torture, torment and cruelty.



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