Cruel and unusual punishment

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As a cops and courts reporter for more than 20 years, I covered more than my share of heartbreaking stories…

There was the aftermath of 9/11 in the New York City suburbs and the accidental drowning death of a small autistic boy. There were homicides, car crashes that claimed young lives and the “war stories” about battered young veterans coming home from Afghanistan or Iraq.

But for some reason the stories that bugged me most — the ones that I remember to this day — are those that involved animal cruelty, abuse or neglect.

As someone who loves animals and as a responsible pet owner, I couldn’t — and still can’t understand why anyone would deliberately hurt or even neglect an innocent dog, cat, horse… or any other creature for that matter. But you don’t need to love, or even like animals in order to find this behavior reprehensible. All you’ve got to be is a compassionate human being.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

As someone who loves animals and as a compassionate person, I found a recent account about the confiscation of dozens of animals in Connecticut to be especially disturbing. According to a wtnh.com report, a complaint alerted authorities that something was amiss at the East Hampton complex back in September. Subsequent attempts to ensure the animals — including more than 30 horses — received adequate care on site reportedly yielded mixed results.

“The horses, along with two dogs, several rabbits and more than 80 chickens, were removed from the Fairy Tail Equine facility after an investigation that determined the animals were malnourished, not receiving proper veterinary care and kept in unhealthy conditions,” the Connecticut Department of Agriculture reported February 3. 

 Connecticut officials also said that the horses, which were confiscated pursuant to  a search-and-seizure warrant signed by a Superior Court judge, were transported to the department’s Second Chance large animal rehabilitation facility in Niantic. The smaller animals that were also seized have since been sent to nearby animal shelters.

 An investigation is ongoing and it is unclear whether the owners will face criminal charges.

In some cases, criminal charges aren’t warranted. Some people are simply financially or emotionally incapable of providing adequate care for their animals. Some are just irresponsible. In such cases, a simple ban on future ownership is all that’s needed.

 

Having said that, studies show in many cases that people who are capable of harming animals also show little regard for human life. As long as that is so, it’s essential that animal cruelty cases continue to be taken seriously and that offenders are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

 

 

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Injustice, indeed

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“Nothing surprises me, but many things disappoint me.”

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

It’s something I often said while working as a reporter for more than 20 years — and it’s something that remains true today.

So, no, I wasn’t surprised when my daily search for blog fodder unearthed a recent techdirt.com article about the Virginia Supreme Court’s failure to implement new rules that would correct alleged imbalances the Commonwealth’s court system.

But I was definitely disappointed.

As I said, the premise of the article in question is that Virginia’s court system is flawed  and willingly operates in such a way that the odds are constantly stacked against defendants. Furthermore, comprehensive policy review and public pressure has done nothing to convince those in charge to change the status quo.

That may all be true. In fact, after spending more than eight years on the cops and courts beat in Fauquier County, I don’t doubt it.

But perhaps the author wouldn’t have painted Virginia’s judicial system with such a broad — and scathing — brush if he’d been sitting with me in Fauquier County Circuit Court a few years ago.

Back then I was covering a case in which a man employed at the Pentagon was facing charges after he allegedly hit a state trooper with his car at the Virginia Gold Cup (or perhaps it was the International Gold Cup) steeple chase races at the Great Meadow Field Events Center in The Plains. The accused, who held some sort of military rank (I believe he was a lieutenant colonel) had supposedly been drinking and engaged in a verbal dispute with the trooper as he was leaving the grounds. When the trooper told him to stop his car, the man allegedly refused and the vehicle knocked the trooper to the ground.

When the case finally made its way to Circuit Court, the accused appeared in his military uniform. Now to me, that was highly unusual and highly questionable. After all, anyone who has ever covered courts knows that defendants in criminal cases can’t be tried in their “jail jumps” because it could potentially prejudice the jury. So why on earth would a defendant in a criminal case be allowed to appear in a military uniform? Couldn’t that also sway a jury, especially while the U.S. was in the midst of a war in the Middle East?

Never mind. That’s a rhetorical question. In my opinion, it did. In my opinion, this guy was allowed to wear his uniform in order to increase his chances of acquittal. And it worked. He didn’t even get a slap on the wrist. And when he got off, he celebrated by doing a little “victory dance” outside of the courthouse.

As far as I am concerned, his behavior was a disgrace to his uniform, and in his case, the odds were stacked against the prosecution.

It was a grave injustice, indeed.

 

It’s that time of the year

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Yes, it’s that time of the year – again.

As a reporter I wrote more than my share of holiday stories. And believe it or not, a lot of them were about looking out for your pet.

In Brief Legal Writing Services  owner Alexandra Bogdanovic's cat, Eli.
Eli under the Christmas Tree. Christmas 2013.

I wrote those stories because I thought it was important – and because I happen to love animals. After all, I’ve had cats since I was a little kid so I know how stressful and scary it can be when you’ve got to rush Rex or Mittens to the vet.

Having said that, there are a whole host of things that we take for granted at this time of year that can be hazardous or even lethal to companion animals.

Everyone knows that chocolate – or more specifically, the ingredients therein – can cause serious illness in dogs and cats. But there are other things that can make Fido or Cleo sick. Holiday decorations, plants, “people food” and even pet treats can be harmful.

The good news is that preventing unwanted emergencies is a matter of exercising a little common sense and a lot of restraint. Keep decorations and house plants out of reach. When it comes to treats of any type, keep in mind that we shouldn’t overindulge — and neither should our pets.

 

Consider the source

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Recently, I announced my plans to lead by example. Specifically, I said that I planned on doing three blog posts per week. And so far I’ve managed to do just that.

Yes, yes. I know. It’s only been a week. But you’ve got to give me props. At least I’m off to a good start. And no, I don’t plan on changing that anytime soon.

Of course that’s not to say that it isn’t an ambitious plan. And like any such idea, it’s got its drawbacks. For one thing, you may be thinking penning three posts per week is fairly time-consuming. For another, you may be wondering how and where on earth I will come up with enough ideas for that many posts.

First thing’s first. Those of you familiar with the art and science of blogging already know that posts can be scheduled in advance. So doing the writing is simply a matter of setting a few hours aside during the week. For example, this particular post won’t appear until Monday afternoon. But I’m actually writing it on Sunday.

Coming up with original ideas for the posts is seemingly a far more daunting challenge. But there’s a trick to that, too. Instead of spending hours scouring the Internet for ideas, I’ve set up alerts so I receive e-mail notifications about matters of interest. With them in hand, I can easily find fodder for thrice-weekly blogs.

“…it’s a bit ironic for someone with my background.”

Needless to say, international, national, regional and local news stories will likely provide most of the inspiration for these posts. And if you think about it, that’s a bit ironic for someone with my background. Once upon a time, the articles with my byline at the top could have been the basis for another blogger’s posts. Now I’m turning to my successors for help.

Ironic, yes. But hardly surprising. For years, TV and radio news anchors, sports talk radio hosts and their counterparts in politics looked to newspapers for  information to serve as the basis for their own programs. They called it “show-prep.”

Today, they turn to the Internet, where information is much more readily available, but by no means any more accurate. There on any given day, at any given time, they can still find a few decent news stories, many of which are written by reporters who work long hours for what amounts to less than minimum wage under the constant threat that their livelihood will disappear entirely.

It’s a possibility I lived with throughout my 21-year newspaper career. But the truth is, the print media hasn’t died. It has just adapted.