New information has become available in the case of a Belton, South Carolina woman charged with ill treatment of animals. This Examiner article covered the original case, and more links can be found under sources that detail the entire story.
According to the Anderson County, South Carolina 10th Judicial Circuit Public Index, Julianne Westberry's was received in court June 30 on code charge 2804 Animals/ Ill treatment of animals in general and torture.
This case was "assigned judge" Clerk of Court C P, G S and Family Court, and will now go to General Sessions court.
There are those in the animal advocate community who are pushing for more charges to be made. Animal lovers who have heard about the deaths of at least 57 cats and the abandonment of 32 more who survived her home are enraged. Especially since information was discovered of a farm where countless cats were dumped to fend for themselves.
Those who have kept up to date with this case want Westberry charged with one count of animal cruelty for each cat, both living and dead.
This includes separate charges for taking money for those Westberry "rescued." A petition has been started here, and at the time of this article has almost 800 signatures.
Westberry was given a $1,000 bond following her arrest June 19. She was able to bond out on PR, meaning no money was put up for her to be released.
South Carolina Animal Law SECTION 47-1-70 defines abandonment of animals; penalties; hunting dog exception.
(A) A person may not abandon an animal. As used in this section "abandonment" is defined as deserting, forsaking, or intending to give up absolutely an animal without securing another owner or without providing the necessities of life. "Necessities of life" includes:
(1) adequate water which means a constant access to a supply of clean, fresh, and potable water provided in a suitable manner for the species;
(2) adequate food which means provision at suitable intervals of quantities of wholesome foodstuff suitable for the species and age, sufficient to maintain a reasonable level of nutrition to allow for proper growth and weight;
(3) adequate shelter which means shelter that reasonably may be expected to protect the animal from physical suffering or impairment of health due to exposure to the elements or adverse weather.
(B) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not less than two hundred nor more than five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both. Offenses under this section must be tried in the magistrate's or municipal court.
Penalties, found here, are as follows
*Class A 1st offense ill treatment of animals up to $400 fine and up to 60 days
*Class B Animal Neglect misdemeanor up to $500 and up to 60 days
*Abandonment may be a misdemeanor or felony at court discretion and up to $5000 fine and up to 2 years
*Torture up to 10 years
The problem is South Carolina ranks near the bottom in animal protection laws. This article posted by LIVE5 News has eye-opening information.
*South Carolina ranks 47 out of 51 in animal cruelty laws
*30 states have future ownership bans. SC isn't one of them
*Many times an animal abuser is charged with only one offense, instead of one offense per animal harmed
Kim Kelly, South Carolina's Director of the Humane Society of the United States stated to LIVE5
"It's very difficult to know that someone is abusing animals and not just one or ten animals but hundreds of animals and not be able to get a conviction."
Kelly is working hard to see South Carolina get tougher fines and longer prison sentences for animal abusers.
Travis Garner with Team Pickens is doing his best, along with other upstate animal lovers, to strengthen animal cruelty laws for South Carolina. Team Pickens met with Senator Larry A. Martin, who agrees animal cruelty laws need to be tougher in South Carolina, and said he will push for Senate Bill 193 to pass.
The bill would make it easier for law enforcement to seize animals from abusive situations, and create tougher penalties for those who hurt them. More about this topic can be found here.
In the meantime, upstate rescues continue to hope more cats will be found alive at the farm, while several rescued from Westberry's home fight their own battle to live.