Religious Ritual Results in Animal Cruelty Charge

July 8, 2022 Criminal Defense

Religious freedom is a granted right for people in the United States. People can believe whatever they want, and practice or pray how they please. However, there are some instances where religion may interfere with the law. One specific instance is animal sacrifice.

In Florida, there are strict rules against animal cruelty. This is to protect animals from torment from their owners or individuals who wish to do harm to animals. In one recent criminal case in Florida, citizens were shocked when they found two men on the beach attempting to sacrifice animals.

Although they claimed it to be a part of their religious freedom, mutilating and killing an animal is still against the law in the state of Florida. We will cover the case and its details, along with the statute for animal cruelty.

What was the Incident?

Two men were found sacrificing animals in South Florida on a beach. According to NBC 6, there were both chickens and pigeons that were butchered and beheaded on the shore of a Virginia Key beach.

The Virginia Key Outdoor Center shared images on their Instagram page of the chickens in a box on the sand. Several of the chickens were already dead. After finding the men with the animals they were able to rescue six adult hens and over a dozen pigeons.

Witnesses were able to take a video of the car’s license plate that the two men were trying to escape after getting caught abusing the animals. The video helped police track down and charge the men. One of the men, Dany Machado Gomez, claimed that they were exercising religious freedom by sacrificing the animals.

One witness told interviewers that she believed the men were practicing Santeria, a religious practice that includes animal sacrifices. There were also other items thrown into the water near the men, including pumpkins.

Only Gomez received a charge for animal cruelty so far. The police claimed they were limited in charging more severe animal cruelty charges, but added nine citations for illegally dumping animal carcasses in a public park. The citations equate to around $7,500.

From the Virginia Key Outdoor Center’s Instagram, the employee addressed the stolen animals: “The pigeons were identified as being stolen the prior night from a breeder. Because they are trained for racing they were able to fly home. One white pigeon valued at over 2k is still missing. The hens are friendly breeder hens. Probably stolen too. I wish I had arrived earlier.”

Animal Cruelty in Florida

Under Florida Statute Section 828.12, cruelty to animals is defined as when a person unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates or kills any animal. It is considered a first-degree misdemeanor if a person causes the same to be done to any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner.

If the individual intentionally commits an act to any animal, or a person who owns or has the custody of an animal and fails to act, which would result in the animal’s cruel death or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, it is considered aggravated animal cruelty. Aggravated animal cruelty is considered a third-degree felony.

Cruelty is defined as the following actions taken out on an animal:

  • “overloading, overdriving, or tormenting”
  • Depriving an animal of food, water, or shelter
  • Mutilating or killing an animal in a cruel manner

Penalties for Animal Cruelty

The consequences of animal abuse in Florida vary depending on the type of abuse. The various laws for animal abuse penalties are set to protect household pets such as dogs and cats, but also livestock such as chickens, cattle, and pigs.

The following is a list of penalties for the varying ranges of animal abuse:

  • Standard animal cruelty – considered a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties up to a $5,000 fine and up to one year in prison.
  • Aggravated animal cruelty – considered a third-degree felony, with penalties up to a $10,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

To find out more about animal cruelty or whether you can own a pet after an animal cruelty conviction, read our page here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime in the state of Florida, it is important to seek out the help of a criminal defense attorney. Receiving reliable legal help can help make the difference between paying expensive fines and going to jail, or walking away free. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients all across Florida, and understand the importance of strategizing a strong defense to your case. We promise to stand by your side and help navigate you through the legal process. For a free consultation regarding your case, call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

Written by Karissa Key

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