Law enforcement officials investigating an incident recently in Jefferson County, Mo., stumbled upon a sad scene. Two small puppies, their throats slashed, had been tossed into a creek like so much garbage.
Police believe the man who did it was 22-year old Kyle Busby, who lives near the creek where the puppies’ bodies were found. Busby said he killed the puppies “because they were sick,” according to a probable cause statement obtained by KTVI in St. Louis.
Busby is facing charges for what he did. Littering charges. That’s all — just littering.
Busby reportedly failed to appear at an October hearing on the littering charge, resulting in a warrant being issued for his arrest.
Animal rescue professionals in the St. Louis area expressed shock and unhappiness with how this situation is playing out. Randy Grim of Stray Rescue of St. Louis feels Busby’s alleged actions merit more than a littering charge.
“[Cutting puppies' throats] is animal abuse too,” Grim told KTVI. “If that happened, it should be a felony.” He urged that anyone with a sick pet they can’t keep ought to take it to an animal shelter or a humane society so it can receive care.
Apparently, the idea of taking his sick puppies to a veterinarian never occurred to Busby. If he couldn’t afford proper care, why didn’t he surrender the puppies to a shelter so they could be cared for and adopted? We may never know.
Unfortunately, under current Missouri law, “[t]he killing of an animal by the owner thereof, the agent of such owner, or by a veterinarian at the request of the owner thereof” is perfectly legal. The various protections afforded to animals under Chapter 578 of Missouri’s law explicitly don’t apply to the killing of an animal by its owner.
Ironically, had Busby abandoned the puppies alive by the creek, he could have been charged with animal neglect. Because he killed them and left them there, he did no more than violate a state littering law. If he hadn’t left the bodies behind, he’d have committed no offense at all.
The wording of an exemptions provision means that it may not be possible to charge Busby under Missouri’s animal abuse law. That law provides that a person is guilty of animal abuse if he or she:
(1) Intentionally or purposely kills an animal in any manner not allowed by or expressly exempted from the provisions of sections 578.005 to 578.023 and 273.030;
(2) Purposely or intentionally causes injury or suffering to an animal; or
(3) Having ownership or custody of an animal knowingly fails to provide adequate care which results in substantial harm to the animal.
Because section 578.007 allows an owner to kill his own animals, subsection (1) cannot be used to charge Busby in this case. The troublesome owner exemption does not apply, however, to subsection (2) above, the prohibition on purposely or intentionally causing injury or suffering to an animal.
That fact makes animal lovers wonder why Missouri officials aren’t trying harder to prosecute this case as an offense that caused intentional injury or suffering to these puppies. There’s undoubtedly a fine legal line between causing “injury” and causing death under Missouri’s animal abuse legal scheme. For animals in this state, injury is unacceptable, but death by an owner’s hand is no offense.
Missouri lawmakers, why may an owner of any animal legally kill it for no reason at all? What do regular people with no veterinary training know of humanely killing an animal? Why should an unwanted animal’s fate be left in the hands of someone who is not an animal care professional?
Really, Missouri? Can you do no better by the animals than this? Oh, wait. You’re one of the states with an “ag gag” law. I guess we already know your priorities don’t lie with the animals.
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