Animal Cruelty and other Crimes against Pets in Utah

Many Utah residents love their fur babies as if they were part of their family and are horrified when crimes against pets such as animal cruelty occur.

Torture of a companion animal

Animal Cruelty

Photo by: Matt Deavenport

A Provo, Utah man was recently convicted of torture of a companion animal after he sought out, purchased, tortured, and killed nearly a dozen kittens. 26 year old Gene Bairschmidt appeared unmoved following his sentencing of third degree animal cruelty; a charge punishable by up to five years in prison. Bairschmidt’s lack of emotion as well as his intentional torture of a companion animal was disturbing and likely indicated he was suffering from one or more psychiatric disorders.

Poisoning

Another Utah resident was charged with animal cruelty recently after she haphazardly scattered a dangerous poison around her unfenced property, resulting in the death of a neighbor’s puppy. 68 year old Nina Bennett of Summit Park was not intentionally out to hurt the young dog, but was irresponsible in her application of strychnine poisoning used for pest control. The owner of the puppy pressed charges and Bennett was charged with aggravated animal cruelty, a class B misdemeanor. She was sentenced up to six months in jail.

Fighting

Another saddening form of animal cruelty is animal fighting. Animal fighting is when two or more animals are encouraged or trained to fight one another for entertainment or gambling purposes. Although other animals can also be bred and used for fighting purposes, dogs and roosters (cocks) are the most popular in the ring. Game dogs or cocks are usually kept in deplorable circumstances with frequent abuse, resulting in them being aggressive and ready for battle. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah cares for several animals that are rescued from inhumane circumstance such as dog fighting rings. Many of the animals rescued from fighting rings have withstood such extensive abuse that they are unable to be adopted and will permanently reside at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Animal cruelty

Photo by: tanjila ahmed

Photo by: tanjila ahmed

While torture of a companion animal, poisoning of pets and wildlife, as well as animal fighting may be obvious forms of animal cruelty, there are other actions and behavior that can result in similar charges. Utah Code 76-9-301 lists the other various conducts which can result in animal cruelty charges such:

Lack of adequate shelter or protection against “extreme weather conditions”. A simple dog house in below freezing temperatures is cruel and may result in criminal charges. Local animal control officers can instruct Utah residents on how to give their animals proper shelter if the pets are unable to be housed indoors.

Animal abandonment. If an animal is no longer wanted or if the owners are unable to keep their pet, there are several rescue groups throughout Utah willing to take them in. Dropping a pet off on the side of the road and driving away is not the way to relinquish parental pet rights and can result in animal cruelty charges.

Failure to provide necessary food and water. If an animal is in a person’s custody, which Utah Code defines to mean “ownership, possession, or control over an animal”, that person is responsible for providing “appropriate and essential food and water”. Forgetting, being busy, or being unable to feed an animal due to financial difficulties are not valid excuses for not feeding a pet. Failure to provide food and water as well as animal abandonment , lack of shelter, animal fighting, and inflicting injuries can result in a class B misdemeanor or class C misdemeanor, depending on whether or not the abuse was intentional or just reckless.

Killing an animal “without having a legal privilege to do so”. Slaying an animal for reasons such as trespassing or annoyance is not permitted unless the resident feels that they, their family, or their pet’s life is in immediate danger. Aggressive or nuisance animals should simply be reported to animal control to handle. Killing an animal is considered aggravated animal cruelty, the same as torture and poisoning. Aggravated animal cruelty penalties range from a class C misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor, depending on intention and negligence.

Protected pets

All animals, whether domesticated or wild are protected in Utah under various rulings such as animal cruelty laws, animal husbandry laws, and even hunting and fishing regulations. For anyone facing charges for animal cruelty or other crimes against pets and other wildlife, consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Parent Use of Electronics to Harass a Minor

If a parent has an issue with a juvenile who may be causing their child distress, they should refrain from using the internet, text messages, or other means of electronics to angrily communicate to the youth since it is against the law to harass a minor in Utah.

Mama bear

Do Not harass a minor

Photo by: Max Goldberg

Parents have a way of finding themselves knee deep in the drama their kids bring home and can often get too involved. If a parent is upset with another child or teenager on behalf of their child, there are ways to express their feelings without breaking the law. Speaking to the other child’s parents is a respectable step or informing or school officials is recommended if something upsetting took place on campus or at a school-sponsored function. Often however, parents wish to speak directly to the minor in which they can do easily over the internet or by text message. This action however can land the adult in hot water.

Electronic communication harassment

Utah Code 76-9-201 states “ a person is guilty of electronic communication harassment and subject to prosecution in the jurisdiction where the communication originated or was received if with intent to annoy, alarm, intimidate, offend, abuse, threaten, harass, frighten, or disrupt the electronic communications of another, the person:”

• Repeatedly attempts to contact the recipient via electronic device after being asked to refrain communications,

(or through the use of an electronic device)
• “insults, taunts, or challenges the recipient” in an attempt to provoke violence;

• “threatens to inflict injury, physical harm, or damage to any person or the property of any person;

• Causes disruption, jamming, or overload of electronic communication system through excessive message traffic ( . . . )”

Penalties to electronically harass a minor

Photo by: Alassandro Valli

Photo by: Alassandro Valli

Utah law states it is a class B misdemeanor for an adult to harass another adult via electronic device. If an adult chooses to harass a minor, those charges are increased to a class A misdemeanor for the first violation of electronic communication harassment against a minor or a third degree felony if it wasn’t the first time the adult had decided to harass a minor. This law applies to all adults including overly-protective parents and even older siblings who are 18 years of age or older who may harass a minor on behalf of their younger siblings. For more information on charges stemming from electronic communication harassment, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Popular Online Dating App Bans Use by Teenagers

A popular online dating app has recently changed its policy and is banning all teenagers access to their services.

The danger of online dating for teens

Online Dating

Photo by: Don Hankins

For the last three years Tinder has let adults and teenagers alike create and utilize accounts to connect, flirt, and date others in their area. Until now, Tinder has had two separate platforms; one for adults and another for teens between the ages of 13 to 17 years old. Law enforcement and parents have expressed concerns however over sexual predators who have been gaining access to the juvenile platform where they have been found to prey on the younger users. Now Tinder has chosen to be more responsible with their app and no longer offers online dating services to users under the age of 18.

Access through dishonesty

Banning teenager from using online dating apps and websites may help shield minors from online sexual predators but as with most technology, there is a loophole. While Tinder is linked through Facebook which can help verify a user’s age, a teenager can create a Facebook account with a fake age and gain access to the online dating app. This not only puts the teen at risk but also can hurt adults as well. There have been occurrences where teens have gotten adults in trouble with the law for being untruthful about their online age.

Felony charges for misinformation

Photo by: Japanexperterna.se

Photo by: Japanexperterna.se

Last June two Clearfield, Utah men were arrested when a 13 year old boy posed as an 18 year old on the men-only dating app Grindr and solicited the two adults for sexual relations. After meeting the teen at a hotel where he was staying with his parents, one of the men was arrested on sodomy charges while the other was charged with dealing harmful materials to a minor for exchanging nude photos with the 13 year old.

Ask for ID

Users of these online dating apps are cautioned to be wary and report instances of teens posing as adults. Parents are also cautioned to be mindful of what websites and apps minors are accessing through personal laptops or smartphones. Those facing criminal charges for crimes involving online dating apps are encouraged to seek representation from a criminal defense attorney.