New year brings new accounting for animal abusers

BPD, Beaumont Animal Services  and the Jefferson County DA's Office

The litany of animal abuse cases heard in Jefferson County courts in 2015 sparked public outcry, volunteer intervention, and prosecutorial heavy-handedness. But in 2016, animal abuse cases will also require mandatory reporting to the FBI through its National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS.

FBI Unit Chief Amy Blasher said the Bureau partnered with the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Animal Welfare Institute to make the change.

“They believe that animal cruelty was an early indicator of violent crime, and that’s really what led the discussions with our law enforcement partners throughout the country,” Blasher said.

Beaumont Police Department officers agree.

“Animal abuse is a cruel crime that not only affects the animal, but could lead to other and more serious crimes by the assailant,” Sgt. James Guedry said. 

BPD has made it a priority to address animal abuse crimes, even as the FBI has taken a stand on the importance of reporting their occurrence. BPD partnered with Beaumont Animal Services and Crime Stoppers to combat animal abuse and neglect in a complete reorganization of the animal shelter into two separate units. One unit is being assigned to caring for and adopting out animals, while another will be strictly tasked with addressing animal abuse complaints, with a BPD detective designated specifically to investigating these crimes.

“The approach is simple, but the investigative part will need to involve community members helping us to stop this abuse,” Guedry detailed. “By dividing the two units, we feel that we will be more effective in protecting the animals and providing a safer environment for our citizens.”

The community is called upon to take action and aid the endeavors to prosecute these crimes aggressively. Should a local resident feel an animal is being harmed or neglected, the abuse should be reported to Beaumont Police, Animal Services, or Crime Stoppers (409-833-TIPS). There is up to a $1,000 reward for those eligible.

Those who want to offer assistance to abused and neglected animals saved by animal services personnel in Beaumont need go no further than their personal computer to see the animals in need of loving homes on Beaumont Animal Control Adoption Center manager Susan Toney said the mission of the new unit she heads is to greatly decrease euthanasia rates and increase the number of animals adopted into loving homes. To date, she reports, hard work has accomplished the fete she and staff have set out to do.

While animal cruelty cases detailed in media accounts painted a grim picture for the crimes’ victims, a beam of light shines through the darkness, piercing the sorrowful shadow cast by the publicized instances of brutality against the mostly helpless creatures. A record number of homeless and abandoned animals were adopted at the Beaumont animal shelter in 2015, Toney reported.

One of the most publicized animal cruelty cases of 2015 in Jefferson County ended with the victim being adopted to a loving home from the Humane Society of Southeast Texas. “Victor,” the miniature pinscher who suffered multiple stab wounds with a steak knife, left to die in a drainage ditch with the weapon still lodged in his back, appeared in court with his new family as 17-year-old Clinton Joseph Johnson was sentenced to two years in prison for the attack.

Cindy Meyers, board member of the Humane Society of Southeast Texas, was present for Johnson’s sentencing. She noted that convictions for animal cruelty have been difficult to obtain, but she hoped this case indicates that situation is changing.

“This case was an example of total partnership between the Humane Society, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, and the community who turned in tips on who perpetuated the crime against Victor,” Meyers said.

Meyers celebrated justice for Victor, but added, “Tragically, there are other ‘Victors’ who need our help, too. With the four-way partnership between the Humane Society, the DA’s office, the sheriff’s department, and our kind community, Victor was victorious over the cruelty inflicted on him, and the cruelty inflicted on him will be punished.”

The outcome of the animal cruelty case of Groves’ Jeremy Jones, first filed in 2014, still remains to be determined. However, according to Jones’ attorney Allen Parker, both animals rescued from Jones’ home have since been adopted.

According to evidence presented in court, not only were the animals in Jones’ care so neglected that many of them started dying off in a home where at least a dozen cats and dogs were kept without food and water for an indeterminate amount of time, those who succumbed to the conditions were left to decompose in the home with surviving pets left to cannibalize their carcasses.

Parker said his client was trying to take care of his dogs when he could, and insisted Jones was not a bad person, just a person in a bad situation.

Both sides of the argument will be heard in Judge Cory Crenshaw’s County Court at Law No. 2 on Monday, Jan. 11, at 10 a.m. for a scheduled trial date.

While the facts surrounding both Jones’ and Johnson’s cases won’t likely be known by the nation at large, animal cruelty cases in Beaumont in 2016 will be identified for the FBI’s NIBRS categorized by four separate types of abuse: simple/gross neglect (unintentionally, intentionally, or knowingly failing to provide food, water, shelter, veterinary care, hoarding, etc., as in the case against Jones), intentional abuse and torture (tormenting, mutilating, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment, as in the case against Johnson), organized abuse (dog fighting and cock fighting), and animal sexual abuse.

Vidor Police Department Detective Mark Steele told The Examiner his agency already works animal cruelty cases on par with any other criminal investigation.

“Animal cruelty is a crime, and we take all crimes seriously,” he said.