December 23, 2009
Injured Dog and Puppies Suffered in The Cold
Rescuers charged with a crime
by Ariana Huemer
Barbie the dog was in dire straits.
Lying in the snow with a broken leg and other injuries, she had recently given birth to a litter of puppies and was trying desperately to nurse them and keep them warm in bitter temperatures.
According to media reports, neighbors saw the dog get hit by a car and called both the Jackson County, Idaho, sheriff's department and the Upper Valley Humane Society after the dog had lain outside in the cold for a day.
A representative of the UVHS who went to the property to check on the dog was charged with trespassing.
Four days later Barbie was still outside and seemed not to have gotten any veterinary treatment. She and her tiny puppies huddled together in cold and snow day after day.
That's where Troy Jackson stepped in. Alerted to Barbie's predicament, the executive director of Northwest Animal Companions drove to Barbie's house, where Barbie's owner agreed to let Jackson take her to a vet.
X-rays showed that Barbie had a broken leg and four breaks in her hip, apparently from having been hit by a car in another incident weeks before the accident the neighbor witnessed. The vet prescribed pain medication for severe injuries that probably caused Barbie to suffer extensively.
Jackson secured veterinary treatment for Barbie as well as a temporary home for her and her pups. And then Barbie's story took an even more distasteful turn.
An Ugly Twist
Troy Jackson, Barbie's rescuer, was arrested in the middle of the night. The charge? Felony grand theft—because he had not returned Barbie and her pups to the owner.
Understandably, Jefferson County residents are outraged, both at the alleged neglect Barbie and her pups endured and at what many see as an astonishing miscarriage of justice. Rather than being rewarded for his compassion, Barbie's rescuer was arrested.
The irony many people see in the case is that a crime against "property" was taken seriously enough for charges to be filed, while a dog allegedly suffered injuries in the cold without help until Jackson took her to the vet .
Barbie's case is a classic example of how cases of alleged animal neglect are frequently mishandled. It underscores the need for law enforcement to be educated in handling animal cruelty and neglect cases.
This is especially true in Idaho, one of only four states in the entire nation without a felony animal cruelty law.
Barbie's case has sparked public outrage. Speaking on behalf of The HSUS' 40,000 members in Idaho at a public hearing, Adam Parascandola, director of animal cruelty issues for The HSUS, said this appears to be an injustice to Barbie, her puppies, and the brave people who tried to help her.
"Instead of pursuing the alleged crime against Barbie and her puppies, despite evidence of prolonged suffering and neglect, Jefferson County Sheriff Blair Olsen has charged the two people who showed compassion toward the animals. We believe this action is a callous betrayal of the sheriff's sworn duty to uphold Idaho's animal protection law," Parascandola said.
A Call for Change
While the outcome of Barbie's case is still uncertain, one thing is for sure: attitudes about animal abuse in Idaho—both in the legislature and among law enforcement—need an overhaul.
Many dogs and other animals suffer and sometimes perish every year from neglect. In most cases, the animal's anguish goes unnoticed and unaddressed.
Barbie's case has the potential to make a difference by raising awareness of the issue. The passionate public attention it has garnered has set the stage for much-needed reform. The best way to help Barbie and animals like her is to overhaul Idaho's animal welfare laws in 2010.
What You Can Do
Senator Tim Corder (D-22) will sponsor a bill during the 2010 legislative session to make animal cruelty a felony in Idaho. If you live in Idaho, ask your state senator and representative to support Senator Corder's bill to make animal abuse a felony.
Ariana Huemer is cruelty case manager for The Humane Society of the United States