Animal cruelty a ‘higher priority’ - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Animal cruelty a ‘higher priority’

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Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2004 7:11 am | Updated: 6:02 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The dog had been kicked and punched repeatedly, and police found the animal with rubber bands tied around its testicles as part of an at-home neutering procedure. The dog would have suffered a slow and painful death if no one had intervened, officials said.

A Mesa man, James L. Williams, was prosecuted last year for being cruel to the dog and sentenced to six months in jail, three years probation and community service, Maricopa County Superior Court records indicate.

The case is one of 145 felony prosecutions for animal cruelty in Maricopa County since a state law went into effect in 1999 that upgraded serious abuses from misdemeanors to felony crimes, said Kim Noetzel, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Humane Society.

Noetzel said animal cruelty prosecutions in the Valley have been increasing since the state law went into effect, and she attributes that to a higher community awareness.

"When the law first got on the books, we were happy if they could get one or two felony prosecutions in a year," she said. "It’s finally getting more attention. Police are responding more, making cases a higher priority than they used to be in the past. They spend more time at the crime scene helping to build the case."

She said a partnership between the Humane Society and Silent Witness — a hotline for anonymous tips on crimes — has helped as well. The number for Silent Witness is (800) 343-8477.

"I hope (success in felony prosecutions) sends a message, because so many cases involve juveniles," Noetzel said.

By the numbers

Felony animal cruelty prosecutions in Maricopa County.

2000: 33

2001: 21

2002: 35

2003: 54

Source: Maricopa County Attorney’s Office

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