The decisions of judges in animal cruelty cases receive major media attention because the American public is highly emotional about pets. Historically, the excuse for not prosecuting heinous crimes against animals was often the claim that judges do not take animal abuse seriously.
That is changing. But, as the Internet inundates us with stories of horrendous large-scale animal abuse and neglect, it is important to also publicize the statements of personal compassion and empathy that judges increasingly are incorporating into their courtroom opinions. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than by the insightful comments of the Honorable Jesse Rodriguez in the following excerpts from the 2007, Long Beach, CA, animal abuse/hoarding-case sentencing of ALEXIA TIRAKI-KYRKLUND, 45, and GLORIA ROMERO, 39, both found guilty of animal cruelty in running a “rescue” facility, called NOAH’S ARK.
What Is Animal Hoarding?
In the various categories of animal cruelty, “hoarding” or “collecting” animals is among the most loathsome and unforgivable, based on the number of simultaneous victims, length and degree of visible and internal suffering, and the fact that often the perpetrator manages other aspects of his/her life effectively—indicating that there is mental clarity and intentional deceit during the months or years of neglect of helpless animals (exempting those cases where there is a professional medical diagnosis of serious mental disorder).
In a 2010 animal cruelty conviction involving hoarding, the perpetrator is a former Mayor of Beverly Hills, CA, and a current practicing attorney.
Most hoarders realize they are doing something wrong. This is evidenced by the elaborate steps taken to hide the animals, refuse entry to the location, withdraw from social interaction, keep dead bodies of animals in freezers, and refuse to obtain veterinary care—all from fear of discovery.
If you have never been physically at the site of animal hoarding, it is hard to imagine the noxious, debilitating odor of often hundreds of animals urinating, defecating, and dying in a cramped, closed area. Of course, not all hoarding is companion animals. Dozens of skeletal horses and other emaciated, dehydrated farm animals are found without food and water and too weak to stand. Hundreds of birds and reptiles are subjected to a slow, painful death from neglect and starvation without anyone ever knowing.
Too often there has been a failure to prosecute animal hoarders because it is routinely dismissed by officials as merely "obsessive-compulsive behavior," or the result of “good intentions gone awry.” Thus, the obvious evidence of the criminal act is ignored or minimized. Yet, the animals are held totally captive in small cages and/or houses or other structures with covered and sealed windows and are allowed to starve to death as they are consumed by the toxicity of their own waste. Hoarding is not a momentary oversight—it is continuing animal cruelty on a mass and perverse basis.
There are politicians, lawmakers and major humane organizations that gain national publicity and donor funding for their efforts against the cruelty of puppy mills but excuse the filth and excruciating suffering of hoarded animals on the justification that a well-intentioned animal rescuer merely became “overwhelmed.” Responsible, capable rescuers use their head as much as their heart and do not allow themselves to become chronically overwhelmed.
Hoarding is not just an issue of numbers of animals. It is the lack of ability—for whatever reason-- to reasonably and humanely care for them. Some hoarders do not spay and neuter the animals they collect and deliberately increase the number of unsocialized, starving and sick animals by this omission.
Some of the most tragic contemporary hoarding situations occur under the guise of “rescue” and under the provisions of a 501(c)3 charity, to which unsuspecting owners relinquish their pets—often for a donation and/or bequest, believing they will be cared for in a kind and humane manner to the end of their natural lives.
In the KYRKLUND/RAMOS (Noah’s Ark) case, many of the animals were already “rescued” from public animal shelters and left with Kyrklund by individuals/groups involved in removing impounded pets from municipal shelters ostensibly for purposes of adoption. A large number were traced by microchips issued by Los Angeles City Animal Services department.
Why Do “Humane Experts” Excuse Hoarding?
How do professionals who claim to love animals repeatedly excuse obviously sane, articulate persons who fail to maintain minimally humane conditions for dozens, often hundreds, of animal victims? And, why are these criminals so often allowed to keep or obtain more animals and repeat the behavior after conviction merely by moving to a new jurisdiction?
If we compare the usual dismissive penalties imposed on animal hoarders to pedophiles, could the argument be made that both are merely an “obsessive-compulsive disorder” and that the perpetrators of egregious crimes against children should be allowed to continue to adopt or be in a position/household where he/she has access to and control over children? Is it because they are voiceless that merely a claim to “love” animals allows them to be abused by hoarders with impunity?
Equally perplexing, why do many responsible rescuers risk their own credibility by rushing to cover the transgressions of one of their own whose reprehensible conduct is far worse than the maligned relinquishment of healthy pets to shelters by those who cannot continue their care?
JUDGE JESSE RODRIGUEZ LOOKS AT A BLURRED SUBJECT WITH CLEAR VISION
On December 4, 2007, ALEXIA TIRAKI-KYRKLUND and GLORIA RAMOS were convicted by a jury on three counts of animal cruelty in running a “no-kill” private animal-rescue center, called NOAH’S ARK, in Long Beach, CA. Animal Abuse: Shelter raided, 250 cats and dogs seized - Long Beach, CA | Pet-Abuse.Com Animal Cruelty Database http://www.pet-abuse.com/cases/9528/CA/US/#ixzz1R79E0kXp
At the December 20, 2007 sentencing, The Honorable Jesse I. Rodriguez shared his personal thoughts and feelings about animals in our society and those who violate the trust of these “vulnerable” victims. His opinions are presented in pertinent excerpts from the trial transcript and are offered to encourage more enlightened and vigorous pursuit of justice for voiceless victims of animal cruelty and hoarding.
(Also, included are certain extracted statements by prosecutor, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Mark Burnley and Defense Attorney Todd Krause.)
The following Profiles from Pet-Abuse.com provide background/ summary information of the Kyrklund/Ramos “Noah’s Ark” case:
ANIMAL ABUSE DATABASE PROFILE (Pet-Abuse.com)
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES
DEPARTMENT SOUTH F
HON. JESSE I. RODRIGUEZ, JUDGE
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE
OF CALIFORNIA, DECEMBER 20, 2007
SENTENCING: PROBATION (RAMOS)
STATE PRISON (KYRKLUND)
JUDGE RODRIGUEZ: “WE ARE HERE BECAUSE OUR CULTURE AND OUR DEMOCRACY, BASED ON JUDEO-CHRISTIAN BELIEFS, ITS HISTORY AND ITS HERITAGE BELIEVES THAT EVERY BEING SHOULD BE TREATED WITH RESPECT.
“I THINK THAT THIS BASICALLY BRINGS TO THE SURFACE THAT IN OUR DEMOCRACY EVEN ANIMALS HAVE RIGHTS. THEY ARE IMPORTANT RIGHTS. THERE IS NOTHING MORE PLAINLY TO CONTRAST OUR JUDEO-CHRISTIAN BELIEFS AND CULTURES AND DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPALS TO THE FACT THAT IF YOU RECALL, GENTLEMEN, THAT AT ONE POINT IN TIME THERE MAY HAVE BEEN ONE OR MORE JURORS THAT CAME FROM OTHER CULTURES WHERE ANIMALS, ESPECIALLY DOGS, ARE USED TO FEED ANIMALS.
“SO…I MAKE THAT ANALOGY BECAUSE TO A DEGREE--IT IS A TESTAMENT OF OUR DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES THAT WE ARE HERE IN THIS TYPE OF A CASE.
“YOU MAY PROCEED, MR. BURNLEY.”
DEPUTY D.A. MARK BURNLEY (PROSECUTOR):
“JUST BRIEFLY, YOUR HONOR. MY PRINCIPAL CONCERN OF THE PEOPLE IS THAT THE DEFENDANTS UNDERSTAND AND REALIZE THAT WHAT THEY DID WAS WRONG BECAUSE IT SEEMS FROM PAST BEHAVIOR THAT THEY JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND. AT LEAST MISS KYRKLUND DOESN'T UNDERSTAND. SHE HAD A CHANCE TO UNDERSTAND WHEN THE SIGNAL HILL CASE WAS FILED BACK IN 2004. SHE HAD A CHANCE TO UNDERSTAND WHEN LIEUTENANT QUIGLEY CAME OUT TO DO A COURTESY INSPECTION OF THE FACILITY IN JULY OF 2005. AND STILL HERE WE ARE, BOTH DEFENDANTS HAVING BEEN CONVICTED AT JURY TRIAL OF THREE FELONY COUNTS OF ANIMAL ABUSE.
“…HONESTLY, YOUR HONOR, I CANNOT SAY WHICH WOULD MAKE THEM UNDERSTAND AND REALIZE MORE. WOULD STATE PRISON AND PAROLE MAKE THEM UNDERSTAND AND REALIZE AND DETER THEM FROM EVER DOING THIS AGAIN? WOULD THAT BE THE MORE APPROPRIATE WAY TO PREVENT THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN, OR WOULD A FORMAL GRANT OF FELONY PROBATION WITH TIME IN COUNTY JAIL AS REQUESTED IN THE PEOPLE'S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM BE THE MORE APPROPRIATE VEHICLE?
JUDGE RODRIGUEZ: “DO YOU BELIEVE THAT IN TERMS OF SENTENCING…BOTH DEFENDANTS STAND EQUALLY BEFORE THE COURT?”
MR. BURNLEY: “NOT REALLY, YOUR HONOR. I BELIEVE THAT IF EITHER DEFENDANT WOULD BE MORE--I DON'T WANT TO SAY—CULPABLE--BUT MORE INVOLVED, IT WOULD BE MISS KYRKLUND.”
“MISS RAMOS. FROM MY REVIEW OF HER CRIMINAL HISTORY--HAS A 14601.1 [Driving w/o License] SHE HAS NO OTHER PRIOR CONTACT WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT. SHE HAS NEVER BEEN CITED AS FAR AS I CAN TELL FOR ANY TYPE OF BEHAVIOR SIMILAR TO THIS. HOWEVER, I THINK FROM THE TRIAL TESTIMONY THAT IT DID COME OUT THAT SHE WAS HEAVILY INVOLVED WITH THE FACILITY…”
JUDGE RODRIGUEZ: “THANK YOU.” (COURT DISCUSSION WITH DEFENSE COUNSEL.)
MR. BURNLEY: “THIS CASE WAS ABOUT THE DEFENDANTS FAILING TO DO WHAT THEY
HAD PUT THEMSELVES OUT AS DOING FOR ANIMALS, HELPING ANIMALS--HELPING ANIMALS IN NEED AND TAKING CARE OF THEM.
“AS I SAID IN MY CLOSING ARGUMENT. MAYBE THEY HAD NOBLE INTENTIONS, BUT THOSE NOBLE INTENTIONS WENT HORRIBLY AWRY.
“FOR INDIVIDUALS THAT HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH ANIMALS FOR WHAT APPEARS TO BE A LONG PERIOD OF TIME, IT IS ALMOST WORSE THAT IT HAPPENED TO THEM BECAUSE THEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND WHAT THOSE CONDITIONS WERE.
“EVEN THOUGH THE DEFENSE IS SAYING THAT THEY ARE NOT GOING TO BE INVOLVED WITH ANIMALS ANY MORE, I BELIEVE PART OF THIS CONVICTION SHOULD BE PUNISHMENT AND DETERRENCE.
“I THINK THE COURT NEEDS TO SENTENCE APPROPRIATELY. IF THE COURT IS NOT GOING TO IMPOSE STATE PRISON, I BELIEVE TIME IN COUNTY JAIL. THE PEOPLE'S MEMORANDUM LAYS OUT ALL THE CONDITIONS OF PROBATION THAT ARE REQUIRED UNDER SECTION 597 [CA Penal Code – Crimes against Animals—Felony or Misdemeanor]. THESE DEFENDANTS NEED TO UNDERSTAND, NOT JUST SIT HERE AND SAY WE UNDERSTAND, BUT THEY NEED TO LIVE WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF WHAT THEY DID.
JUDGE RODRIGUEZ “THANK YOU, GENTLEMEN.
“THE VICTIMS IN THIS CASE WERE VULNERABLE. THEY WERE HELPLESS ANIMALS JUST WANTING TO BE TREATED FAIRLY. I DO BELIEVE THAT ANIMALS HAVE FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS AND SHOULD BE TREATED FAIRLY. THESE WERE HELPLESS BEINGS. THEY COULDN'T TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES. THEY EXPECT OTHER PEOPLE TO TAKE CARE OF THEM.
“IN OUR SOCIETY, WE DO. THEY ARE PART OF US. THEY ARE PART OF OUR FAMILIES. SO IN OUR SOCIETY, WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO FAIRLY AND PROPERLY TAKE CARE OF OUR ANIMALS AND OUR PETS WITHIN OUR MEANS. OUR MEANS MUST BE REASONABLE. OUR INTENTIONS MUST BE REASONABLE BASED ON LOGIC AND COMMON SENSE.
“AS TO DEFENDANT RAMOS, SHE HAS AN INSIGNIFICANT CRIMINAL RECORD. SHE DOES NOT HAVE ANY PRIOR RECORD OF CITATIONS FOR ANY TYPE OF ANIMAL CRUELTY OR ANY PENDING CASES. SHE WAS A VOLUNTEER. SHE BECAME MORE THAN A VOLUNTEER.
AS TO MISS KYRKLUND, SHE WAS ON PROBATION AT LEAST FOR ONE COUNT THAT DEALT WITH SOME TYPE OF DOCUMENTATION AND THEN TWO PENDING COUNTS OF SOME FORM OF ANIMAL CRUELTY.
JUDGE RODRIGUEZ: “THEY ARE PENDING. SO EVEN UP TO THAT POINT SHE STANDS DIFFERENT THAN MISS RAMOS VIS-A-VIS THE ISSUE OF NOTICE.
“FURTHER, ANOTHER AGGRAVATING FACTOR AS TO MISS KYRKLUND IS THAT THE COURT BELIEVES THAT SHE OCCUPIED A POSITION OF LEADERSHIP OR DOMINANCE OVER OTHER PARTICIPANTS. SHE WAS THE ONE IN CHARGE. SHE WAS THE ONE IN CHARGE, SO THE COURT BELIEVES THAT THEY STAND DIFFERENTLY IN FRONT OF THE COURT IN TERMS OF SENTENCING.
“THE PEOPLE BEGAN THEIR ARGUMENT, THEIR CLOSING ARGUMENT, WITH SOME SORT OF CLICHE THAT GOOD INTENTIONS GONE WRONG OR NOBLE INTENTIONS GONE AWRY OR HOWEVER IT WAS PHRASED BY THE PROSECUTION.
“THE COURT HAS BEEN CONCERNED THAT IF MISS RAMOS AND MISS KYRKLUND HAVE THIS DEVOTION FOR THESE ANIMALS OR FOR ANIMALS IN GENERAL, HOW COULD THE SITUATION HAVE GONE SO FAR AND SO BAD FOR THOSE ANIMALS? THEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. THEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER THAT THEY COULDN'T HANDLE IT.
“GOOD INTENTIONS AT THE BEGINNING JUST GO SO FAR. SOME PEOPLE SAY THAT ROBIN HOOD HAD GOOD INTENTIONS. IT IS NOT A PROPER ANALOGY, BUT MANY DICTATORS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD BEGIN WITH GOOD INTENTIONS, AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENS.
“THEREFORE, IN THIS CASE, RESPECTFULLY SPEAKING, AS TO MISS RAMOS, SHE'S PLACED ON [FIVE YEARS] FORMAL PROBATION ON THE FOLLOWING TERMS AND CONDITIONS. SHE IS TO PAY A $200 RESTITUTION FINE.
“SHE IS TO STAY AWAY FROM THE PLACE OF BUSINESS OF THE LONG BEACH ANIMAL CONTROL…AND STAY AWAY FROM ALL THEIR EMPLOYEES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LIEUTENANT QUIGLEY.
“SHE IS TO OBEY ALL LAWS, ORDERS OF THIS COURT AND ALL THE RULES AND REGULATIONS OF THE PROBATION DEPARTMENT.
“SHE SHALL NOT OWN, POSSESS, CARE FOR OR HAVE ANY CONTACT WITH ANY ANIMALS OF ANY KIND. SHE SHALL NOT BE EMPLOYED BY OR START UP OR AFFILIATE WITH OR VOLUNTEER FOR ANY PUBLIC OR PRIVATE AGENCY OR BUSINESS WHOSE PRIMARY BUSINESS PURPOSE IS TO OWN, POSSESS OR CARE FOR ANIMALS. THIS INCLUDES BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO VETERINARIAN CLINICS, VETERINARIAN HOSPITALS, ANIMAL SHELTERS, ANIMAL KENNELS, ANIMAL ADOPTIONS OR ANIMAL RESCUES.
“SHE SHOULD DELIVER IMMEDIATELY, WITHIN 48 HOURS,ANY ANIMALS IN HER POSSESSION TO A DESIGNATED PUBLIC ENTITY FOR ADOPTION OR OTHER LAWFUL DISPOSITION AND PROVIDE PROOF TO THE COURT THAT SHE NO LONGER HAS THEM IN HER POSSESSION.
“HER RESIDENCE IS SUBJECT TO SEARCH AND SEIZURE WITH OR WITHOUT A WARRANT BY ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY INCLUDING THE LONG BEACH ANIMAL CONTROL AT ANY TIME OF THE DAY OR NIGHT AND ALSO BY THE PROBATION DEPARTMET. PURSUANT TO [PENAL CODE SEC.] 597(G), SHE SHOULD BE ORDERED TO PAY AND SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE COUNSELING.
“MISS RAMOS IS TO COMPLETE A 24-HOUR COUNSELING PROGRAM AND ENROLL WITHIN 30 DAYS OF RELEASE FROM CUSTODY.
“THE DEFENDANT IS TO REPORT TO THE PROBATION DEPARTMENT WITHIN 48 HOURS OF RELEASE. I BELIEVE I SAID AT THE BEGINNING IT IS FIVE YEARS OF FORMAL PROBATION…”
JUDGE RODRIGUEZ: “AS TO MISS KYRKLUND..AS TO COUNT 2…THE COURT IS GOING TO SELECT THE LOWER TERM OF 16 MONTHS IN THE STATE PRISON…; AS TO COUNT 3, EIGHT MONTHS…CONCURRENT; AS TO COUNT 12, SENTENCE SUSPENDED PER SECTION 654 OF THE PENAL CODE, SIXTEEN MONTHS CONCURRENT AS TO COUNT 3.
[Remaining counts were dismissed, pursuant to PC Sec. 1885, unable to proceed.]
JUDGE RODRIGUEZ: “FURTHER, THERE IS A $200 RESTITUTION FINE PURSUANT TO SECTION 1202.4(B) AND A $200 PAROLE REVOCATION FINE, MA'AM, PURSUANT TO SECTION 1202.45. THAT FINE IS STAYED, PENDING SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF PAROLE.
[Defendants advised of appeal rights by Judge Rodriguez. Attorney Krause indicated his intention to appeal. Discussion was held with both counsels regarding bail for Plaintiffs Kyrklund and Ramos.)
JUDGE RODRIGUEZ: “[KYRKLUND] BAIL IS DENIED. LIKEWISE TO MISS RAMOS.”
(THE PROCEEDINGS WERE CONCLUDED AT THIS TIME.)
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