In Chesapeake, Virginia, Ashley Fowler, 22, is our latest example of an a human who allegedly expresses her feelings by killing or torturing a pet. In this case, it was a pet piglet of her friend’s former boyfriend, Zach Sawyer, who raised piglets as therapy after an accident. Fowler is accused of decapitating the piglet.
Fowler is charged with two felony counts of killing/maiming livestock, one count of misdemeanor vandalism (for cutting his car tires), and one count of possession of prescription pills.
She is accused of breaking into the property and decapitating the piglet, which was found with multiple stab wounds. The head was then left on the porch. Another piglet had to be put down with stab wounds.
She was arrested later in the day at her work in Portsmouth.
She could receive 50 years for the array of crimes, though that would be unlikely if she is a first offender.
We often discuss these cases in torts as claims under the intentional infliction of emotional distress. It is disturbingly common for pets to be killed or taken in retaliation of breaking up (here, here and here and here and here and here and ). The Restatement (2nd) of Torts, section 46, states:
One who by extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally or recklessly causes severe emotional distress to another is subject to liability for such emotional distress, and if bodily harm to the other results from it, for such bodily harm.
Criminal laws often do not offer sufficient deterrent for animal cruelty, which is often punished in the same sentencing range as property damage since pets are viewed as chattel. This not only fails to recognize true status and personal connection of pets, but also the dangerous propensities of people who torture or kill innocent animals.
Unless Fowler can claim that she was not at the scene, this would appear an obvious case for a plea since self-defense is probably out.