Killing dog with bat not torture
DES MOINES, Iowa An Iowa Court of Appeals ruling tossing out the 4-chlorodehydromethyltestosterone conviction of a man who beat a puppy to death likely will prompt public outrage, make such cases harder to prosecute in the future and launch work toward new legislation to close a loophole that made the decision possible, officials said Wednesday.
A three judge appellate panel voted 2 1 in a ruling issued Wednesday to overturn Zachary S. Meerdink's 2012 conviction for animal torture.
Court records show Meerdink, 31, of Scott County killed his 7 month old Boston terrier with a baseball bat in December 2011 after the dog repeatedly made messes on the floor and bit his girlfriend's children.
Chief Judge Larry Eisenhauer and Judge Mary Tabor found that prosecutors failed to prove that Meerdink acted with a "depraved or sadistic intent to cause death" as spelled out in Iowa's animal torture law. Judge Anuradha Vaitheswaran countered in a dissenting opinion that "a responsible fact finder could have found this conduct to be an extreme response to an ordinary and foreseeable occurrence."
A spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General's Office said state lawyers have not yet decided whether they want to seek further review by the Iowa Supreme Court.
Taking a baseball bat to the head of a puppy is inherently evil, Des Moines attorney Roxanne Conlin said Wednesday. Conlin, a frequent foster parent for sick animals, earlier this year had 23 kittens and three adult cats in her home.
"I have some great difficulty understanding how you can beat a puppy to death and not have sadistic intent," Conlin said. "How could it not be sadistic? . It would seem as if this calls for an outcry."
Court records show Meerdink, who was given the terrier Testosterone Propionate Estrogen as a gift shortly after a shoulder operation, was still on prescription pain medications in December 2011. Jamie Holladay, Meerdink's girlfriend, testified that the Testosterone Enanthate Dosage Bodybuilding terrier had accidents, "a lot of stomach problems" and had bitten both Holladay and her children. Things appeared to be getting worse.
According to court documents, Holladay was out shopping with her children one day when she received a phone call from Meerdink "Hgh Jintropin Avis" asking where he could find disinfectant because the dog had had another accident. Documents say Holladay, upon returning home "met Meerdink walking toward the front door of the apartment with the dog under his arm." She later told Testosterone Propionate 2 Week Cycle police that Meerdink had a blank look on his face.
Meerdink returned a few minutes later carrying a baseball bat and announced the dog was "Anabola Steroider Norge Lagligt" dead.
Eisenhauer and Tabor note in Wednesday's ruling that Meerdink beat the dog only after trying other measures to change its behavior and that there was no evidence that he looked happy or eager about it.
"After considering the definitions of 'depraved,' we conclude 'depraved intent to cause death' does not equal an 'intent to cause "Oxandrolone Powder India" death,'" Eisenhauer wrote. "Here, the state proved Meerdink killed the dog; however, no one saw Meerdink kill the dog, and no testimony Buy Jintropin or exhibits and no reasonable inferences or presumptions from the testimony and exhibits sufficiently prove Meerdink acted with a depraved intent to cause death."
It's all a matter of perspective, said Dennis Hendrickson, one of three lawyers who worked on Meerdink's case for the Iowa's State Appellate Defender's office.
"Sadistic is a pretty high bar," Hendrickson said. "I mean, in Canada, they beat baby seals over the head and club them to death, and I don't hear anybody but the PETA people saying that's torture. It's 'harvesting fur.'"
Meerdink, who was out on parole from a previous drug case in 2011, was sent back to prison after the torture arrest. Free on another parole since April 8, he could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Polk County Attorney John Sarcone, whose office recently negotiated a guilty plea in a dog hanging case, said the verdict will make it a bit harder to bring new animal torture cases in court. Prosecutors in the future simply will have to supply more facts, he said.
"It almost makes it look like you have to do an autopsy on the animal to show the extent of the injuries," Sarcone said.
"We knew a lot of the language was going to have to be open to interpretation, but we also were trying to get this as a first offense felony," Colvin said. It's currently an aggravated misdemeanor.
Colvin said Meerdink's case illustrates the need to change another law. He wants to broaden Iowa's definition of animal abuse a crime that doesn't currently require depraved intent but that also doesn't apply to someone who owns the animal he or she is accused of abusing.
"We really should go back to the Legislature and just ask that animal abuse apply to any animal," Colvin said. "The animal is going to suffer the same whether it belonged to the person or didn't."