As a former prosecutor who has prosecuted dozens of Cruelty to Animals cases, I have been waiting to see when charges would be filed against Mike Spaulding for the killing of the Great Dane, Tonto.
Even though he is a county employee, the case could be prosecuted by an agency other than Gila County. As a courtesy, prosecutors routinely prosecute cases for other agencies whenever there is a conflict of interest which disqualifies the normal prosecutor's office (as in the county prosecuting a county employee).
A quick look at the statute reveals that charges under ARS 13-2910 would be appropriate. That statute reads, in part:
13-2910 Cruelty to Animals...
A. A person commits cruelty to animals if the person does any of the following:
3. Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly inflicts unnecessary physical injury to any animal.
5. Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly kills any animal under the custody or control of another person without either legal privilege or consent of the owner.
These offenses are class one misdemeanors, punishable by up to three years probation, six months in jail, and a $2,500 fine.
While it is doubtful that the killing was intentional, it would probably not be difficult to prove that the killing was either "knowing" or "reckless."
ARS 13-105 defines the required states of mind:
ARS 13-105. Definitions
9. (b) "Knowingly" means, with respect to conduct or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, that a person is aware or believes that his or her conduct is of that nature or that the circumstance exists.
9. (c) Recklessly means, with respect to a result or a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, that a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur....
Of course, the fact that Mr. Spaulding is a trained and experienced animal control officer is evidence that he would be aware of the effects of tightening a noose around an animal's neck and dragging it that way. He had to be aware that there was a substantial risk of killing or seriously injuring the dog.
If Chandler police officer Dan Lovelace can be prosecuted for an on-duty killing, there is no reason why Officer Spaulding cannot. Wearing a uniform and being on duty does not excuse crimes committed by an officer exceeding the bounds of his authority. Officer Spaulding, still out there with his noose, needs to learn that lesson.
Carol D. Stubbs, Payson