July 22, 2009
The HSUS Praises Baxter County, Ark. Sheriff for Pursuit of Animal Abusers, Spearheading Change in Cruelty Law
The Humane Society of the United States praised Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery for his commitment in apprehending two fugitives who had been convicted of animal abuse, and for his role in enacting a felony animal cruelty law in Arkansas this year.
William and Tammy Hanson, who were each convicted in 2006 on multiple cruelty to animals charges in one of the nation's largest cruelty cases, were apprehended in Vermont this week. The couple disappeared before sentencing in connection with the fall 2005 discovery of more than 500 neglected animals on their property. Of those animals, 112 were victims of Hurricane Katrina. Since the Hansons' disappearance three years ago, Montgomery has actively pursued the couple, following up on every tip. The case served as an impetus for the passage of Arkansas' first felony animal cruelty law this year.
"This case and Sheriff Montgomery's dedication helped The Humane Society of the United States to pass a felony animal cruelty law in Arkansas," said Desiree Bender, The HSUS' Arkansas state director. "He has been an amazing leader within the law enforcement community on animal cruelty issues."
The HSUS and Montgomery supported S.B. 77, now Act 33, which becomes law July 31, 2009. The law creates first-time felony penalties for the torture of dogs, cats and horses, and outlaws animal fighting, including cockfighting. The law also carries a five-year sentence enhancement for abusing an animal in the presence of a child. Montgomery conveyed to his state legislators the necessity of felony cruelty laws in order to properly extradite animal cruelty cases, such as the case against Tammy and William Hanson.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel was also integral in getting this important legislation passed and received praise from The Humane Society of the United States for committing $250,000 to train officers in interpreting and administering the state's new animal cruelty statutes. Montgomery has worked closely with the Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute on developing animal cruelty law enforcement training curriculum, which will be offered to officers this fall.
- Feb. 24, 2006 - Tammy and William Hanson, convicted on 20 counts of cruelty to animals in Baxter County District Court, failed to show up for their sentencing hearing. Judge Van Gearhart issued warrants for their arrests. Tammy Hanson is also wanted by Lawrence County, Mo. officials for failing to appear in circuit court. That charge was for multiple counts of theft of animals that were previously rescued from Baxter County.
- Jan. 16, 2006 - Tammy and William Hanson were found guilty on 20 counts of cruelty to animals.
- Nov. 21, 2005 - Baxter County District Judge Van Gearhart ruled that 327 animals found in filthy conditions at the so-called sanctuary could be relocated and adopted into new homes. Gearhart denied the Hansons' request to regain custody of the animals, mostly dogs.
- Oct. 22, 2005 - Tammy and William Hanson were arrested on charges of cruelty to animals — a Class A misdemeanor punishable with fines up to $1,000 and with up to one year in prison. Law enforcement flew over the property after receiving tips more than 100 dogs from the Gulf Coast — victims of Hurricane Katrina — were being held there.
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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.