RUIDOSO – Early in the summer, the occupants of a car traveling on U.S. 70 rolled down a window and threw out a young puppy directly into the path of oncoming motorcyclists.
The pup was hit and severely injured, but survived with the help of a Good Samaritan and a family willing to take him into their home. Now 6 months old, Phoenix and his owners want the public to know that such acts of cruelty can result in felony charges against the perpetrators.
Nicole Beach recently related the details of Phoenix’s story and urged more public awareness to ensure acts of neglect, abuse and cruelty against animals do not go unnoticed, unreported and unpunished.
“Phoenix, only about 6 months old, was seen being thrown out of a fast-moving vehicle, then hit by a motorcycle in the Ruidoso Downs area,” she said. “A good samaritan stopped, picked him up, and took him home. This good samaritan could not care for Phoenix and we received a phone call from our vet asking if we could take him in.”
Nicole and her husband, Dan, said yes. They are already volunteers at the local animal shelter and have been involved for several years in animal rescue.
“We’ve had him since mid-May, when the incident happened,” she said. “Phoenix wound up having a severe injury in which he lost all feeling/function of his left arm. He had to have it amputated, unfortunately.
“Despite his awful beginning in life, Phoenix has grown to be a lovable goofball! We want to raise awareness for animal cruelty like this. There is absolutely no reason for it. Phoenix is one of the happiest puppies I know and is living a wonderful, spoiled life.”
Under state law, felony charges of cruelty versus neglect usually hinge on intent, severity and any past history of cruelty on the part of the offender, Ruidoso code enforcement officer Chris Eisenberg said. Much depends on what the investigating officer determines should be charged based on the facts of the case, he said.
Animal laws are changing from year to year across the country “and we are looking at cruelty cases more as felonies, whereas five to 10 years ago they wouldn’t be,” he said. “Our animals laws are changing for the better in that respect, not just in New Mexico, but across the country. Some states are more proactive.”
While throwing a dog out of a car window on a highway may seem to involve obvious intent, officers have to be able to prove in a court that their case rises to the level of a felony instead of a misdemeanor. A felony charge normally would involved prison time, is a more serious offense on future job applications and can be considered in sentencing on any future felony offense,
“Not feeding a dog or providing shelter may fall more under neglecting the animal than an intent to be cruel,” Eisenberg said.
Code enforcement officer Robert Simpson said the legal break point between a misdemeanor and a felony is “extreme animal cruelty” and involves intent. However, on a fourth or subsequent charge of misdemeanor neglect of an animal, a person also can see that charge increased to a felony, Simpson said.