An Iowa Court of Appeals has reversed an animal torture conviction that a man received after beating a puppy to death in 2011. Court records show that Zachary Meerdink, 31, killed his 7-month-old Boston terrier with a baseball bat after the dog repeatedly went to the bathroom on the floor and bit the his girlfriend's children.
Iowa’s animal torture law requires that the state must show violators acted with a “depraved or sadistic intent to cause death” and two of the three appeals court judges, Chief Judge Larry Eisenhauer and Judge Mary Tabor, felt that prosecutors failed to accomplish that.
State lawyers have not decided if they want to bring the case before the Iowa Supreme Court, according to the Des Moines Reporter.
“I have some great difficulty understanding how you can beat a puppy to death and not have sadistic intent,” said Des Moines attorney Roxanne Conlin. “How could it not be sadistic? ... It would seem as if this calls for an outcry.”
In the ruling, Eisenhauer and Tabor note that Meerdink only beat the dog after he tried other ways to correct its behavior.
“After considering the definitions of ‘depraved,’ we conclude ‘depraved intent to cause death’ does not equal an ‘intent to cause death,’ ” Eisenhauer wrote. “Here, the state proved Meerdink killed the dog; however, no one saw Meerdink kill the dog, and no testimony or exhibits and no reasonable inferences or presumptions from the testimony and exhibits sufficiently prove Meerdink acted with a depraved intent to cause death.”
Polk County Attorney John Sarcone recently helped to negotiate a guilty plea in a dog hanging case. He believes this verdict will make it harder to prove new animal torture cases in court.
“It almost makes it look like you have to do an autopsy on the animal to show the extent of the injuries,” Sarcone said. “I think what the court is saying is you can’t just show the death, you have to show more than that.”