[Disclaimer: this post references an act of animal abuse. I’ve tried not to be lurid, but in order to illustrate the scenario and the legal question it raises, it is unavoidable to discuss the actual event]
Recently, one Thomas Huggins in Orlando, Florida, decided that his pit-bull mix, Bandit, was getting too aggressive to safely handle or keep. So he did the only thing logical (to him). He killed her. By strangulation. With a plastic bag and his bare hands.
Pretty bad, huh? Unfortunately, we’re just getting started.
After killing Bandit, Huggins proceeded to skin the carcass, eviscerate the torso, decapitate her, and then dismember and dice her with a steak knife.
When the police arrived (it’s not immediately apparent how they were tipped), they found Bandit’s ribs cooking in a pot on the stove, along with veggies and seasoning. Other body parts were in the freezer in plastic baggies. The head, skin, and entrails were in the trashcan. Huggins was arrested on the spot.
Initially at trial (and apparently prior to Huggins’ confession), veterinarian Bill Zingalie testified that he was unable to determine the exact cause of death, as “the evidence came in four different bags.” And had been cooked.
But later, once the details were known, the dismembering of the pet was deemed inadmissible by Judge Samantha Ward, as it lacked relevance.
As a prison psychiatric director, I see a lot of people who have been convicted of both animal cruelty as well as homicide. It is accepted within forensic circles that a killing that occurs with bare hands against a struggling victim – as opposed to those performed more remotely – often involves rage and, not uncommonly, a degree of psychopathology not found in garden-variety shootings.
It’s also known that those who abuse humans usually commence their careers with animals.
I would offer that the culinary experiment is very relevant. But Judge Ward differed, holding that cooking of the dog couldn’t be considered cruel because, by then, the dog was already dead.
Nevertheless, last month after only one hour of deliberation, Huggins was convicted of (3d-degree) felony animal cruelty, carrying a maximum of five years in prison. The results of his psychiatric evaluation have not been made public as of this writing. He will be sentenced this coming Thursday, December 19th.
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