Criminal charges against an psychiatrist who shot several cattle in eastern Oregon shouldn’t be dropped simply because he paid the owners, according to the prosecutor trying the case.
Joel Rice, 56, is charged with five counts of first-degree aggravated animal abuse, two counts of first-degree animal abuse and seven counts of criminal mischief.
Rice has admitted to shooting seven cows that had wandered onto his property near La Grande, Ore., but recently filed a motion to dismiss the case because he paid $47,500 to the livestock owners. All but one cow died.
Mona Williams, special deputy district attorney for Union County, Ore., has laid out her arguments against the dismissal in a court document filed Nov. 6.
“The criminal laws are designed to address the need for punishment and deterrence as well as restitution,” she said. “The state concedes that the issue of restitution has been resolved. However, the criminal case should proceed so that Dr. Rice can be held accountable for his actions and the general public gets the message that cruelty to animals is not acceptable.”
Several laws enacted by the Oregon legislature, as well as legal precedents, indicate that animals should be treated as “unique victims” of abuse, “rather than as inanimate property,” Williams said.
If criminal charges are dropped due to financial compensation, then there “will never be a set of circumstances where the owner of an animal will be convicted of animal abuse or neglect,” she said.
The prosecutor also said the dead cows were shot in the ribs or stomach and died in a “painful and stressful manner.”
None of the dead cows were found in Rice’s driveway — where he claims to have shot them — nor were any spent bullet casings found at that location, she said.
Capital Press was unable to reach the attorney for Joel Rice for comment as of press time.
The document that Williams filed noted that Rice never reported trespassing cattle to sheriff’s deputies or the Oregon State Brand Inspector, even though he was provided with information about his rights when his property was annexed into a livestock district in 2002.
In livestock districts, livestock owners must fence their cattle in to prevent trespass. In open range areas, it is up to the property owner to fence livestock out.
Rice shot the cows on Aug. 12 but made “no disclosure to the owners” until after the carcasses were found, she said. He admitted to shooting the cows when confronted by a sheriff’s deputy who had come to serve a warrant at his property on Aug. 29.
When contacted by Capital Press, Williams said these factual elements are significant but she would refrain from comment until oral arguments on the motion to dismiss. The hearing has not yet been scheduled.