Recent Animal Cruelty Case Reflects Commitment, Highlights Need for Change

Judge Cites Link Between Animal Cruelty and Other Forms of Violence

On January 6, 2017, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) Law Enforcement Department, in collaboration with the Salem and Peabody Police Departments, assisted in the execution of a search warrant that landed an alleged animal abuser in jail on a charge of animal cruelty, and removed a defenseless 11-month-old Pit Bull-type dog from his possession.
The investigation of alleged abuse by 31-year-old Salem resident John Leger was reported by witnesses in November, and ultimately involved both Salem and Peabody Police Departments and ARL.

Leger was arraigned on January 9, 2017 at Peabody District Court, and was formally charged with one count of animal cruelty. The district court judge required the posting of a $25,000 cash bond, and the alleged abuser was instructed to have no contact with any witnesses connected to the case, and was barred from any possession, custody and control of animals and cannot reside with any animal while the case is pending. The details contained in the criminal complaint are allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case encompasses elements that mirror ARL’s continuously evolving mission to combat animal abuse.

  • The first issue is consideration of the link between animal abuse and other forms of violence. In 2014, the Animal Cruelty and Protection Task Force was created to consider future protections for animals and ways to strengthen Massachusetts’ cruelty laws. ARL President Mary Nee was a member of the Task Force and she and others explored a number of areas including the link between animal cruelty and other forms of violence and making courts and law enforcement aware of this connection. According to a Massachusetts study, 70 percent of people who committed crimes against animals had also been involved in other violent crimes, and were also five times more likely to commit a violent act against another person. During the suspect’s arraignment, District Court Judge Richard Mori did make note of the existence of the link between animal abuse and other violent crimes before he set conditions of release.
  • The second issue involves the release of a defendant charged with animal cruelty. The court was required to set conditions of release because animal cruelty is not listed as one of the crimes which permits a finding of “dangerousness” and which would permit holding the defendant without bail. ARL, along with other members of the Task Force, is working on legislation which would add the charges of animal cruelty to those which can be used to find that a person charged with animal cruelty may present a risk of danger to the community.

ARL’s Law Enforcement Department works tirelessly and is committed to protecting animals in Massachusetts from all cases of neglect and abuse. ARL would like to commend the Salem and Peabody Police Departments, as well as the Essex County District Attorney’s Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit, for making animal cruelty cases a priority.

IF YOU SEE ABUSE–REPORT IT
Often times, the initial step in animal cruelty cases are a report by a witness. As in the aforementioned case, witnesses who step forward and report are crucial. It is important to remind everyone concerned with animal welfare that if you see something, say something.

Immediately report an incident to your city/town animal control officer, or local police department. Members of the public and other agencies can also report suspected animal abuse to ARL’s Law Enforcement Department at (617) 226-5610 or cruelty@arlboston.org.