Psychiatrist sentenced in cattle shooting

Photo of Chris Baxter, La Grande Observer Dr. Joel Rice is seen here at his arraignment Oct. 15 at the Union County Courthouse in La Grande, Ore. Rice was sentenced May 7 for shooting seven cattle last August.

LA GRANDE, Ore. — A psychiatrist from Eastern Oregon has pleaded guilty to seven counts of first degree animal abuse for shooting several cows last year.

Joel Rice, 57, was sentenced to two days in jail and two years of probation, as well as $1,600 in fines and 369 hours of community service.

As conditions of his probation, Rice must also build a corral on his property to hold trespassing cattle and rebuild a fence that separates his property from a neighbor’s.

In August 2013, Rice shot seven cows that had wandered onto his property near La Grande, Ore., killing all but one.

He paid the cattle’s owners $47,500 in compensation and asked for the criminal charges against him to be dismissed.

Mona Williams, special deputy district attorney for Union County, Ore., countered that Rice must face criminal prosecution because the cattle died in a painful manner due to being shot in the ribs or stomach.

Earlier this year, a state judge refused to drop several charges of aggravated animal abuse against Rice because the crime was committed against the public, not just the cattle owners.

“You can’t buy your way out of cruelly or maliciously killing or torturing your own animals, so it makes no sense to allow others to do it,” said Circuit Court Judge Lung S. Hung.

However, the judge did dismiss charges of criminal mischief that were also pending against Rice due to his settlement with the cattle owners.

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