The Intriguing Legal Case Of The Louisiana Llama: Woman Charged With Shooting Her Pet

There is an interesting case out of Opelousas, Louisiana, where Madeline Bourgeois, 67, is charged with shooting her pet llama, Earl. She has claimed self-defense but prosecutors insist that the passage of time between the attack and the shooting negated the defense.

Bourgeois says that she was working in her pasture when Earl attacked her. She said that she hit the animal and then ran from the pasture. She returned with a gun and repeatedly shot Earl.

Earl survived and was treated for a broken rib and gun shot wounds.

Now we get to the position of Sheriff Bobby Guidroz who says Bourgeois had a right to defend herself and could have killed Earl during the attack. However, she lost that privilege when she returned to the pasture.

It is the application of a common law rule that applies to the privilege of self-defense but this is the first time that I recall seeing it applied to a human/animal case. Under the common law, there is a privilege in the use of reasonable self-defense or even “reasonable mistaken self-defense.” In the case of Courvoisier v. Raymond, 23 Colo. 113 (1896), a man chased a group out of his home only to fire when a man approached him outside his home from the stone-throwing mob. It turned out to be a deputy sheriff but the court found that Courvoisier could rely on reasonable mistaken self-defense. The common law has long offered ample protections even for reasonable mistakes. You can use commensurate force, even lethal force, if defending against a lethal threat. However, that privilege is lost through retaliation. While you do not have a duty to retreat under the common law (and thus may “stand your ground”), you cannot return and retaliate. Once the danger has passed, you are no longer privileged to use violence against the perpetrator. So if you see the attacker the next day after he pulled a knife on you, you cannot kill him absent a new threat to your life.

In this case, Sutherland retreated from the danger and then returned to confront Earl. That would constitute retreat and then retaliation under the common law.

She is now charged with animal cruelty.

25 thoughts on “The Intriguing Legal Case Of The Louisiana Llama: Woman Charged With Shooting Her Pet”

  1. This is tricky with livestock. I do not know the livestock laws in LA. There are times when an animal becomes aggressive, and the owner decides to put it down. A vet is not required to, for example, cull an aggressive rooster. I know someone who discovered one of his cows deliberately goring other cows, and he put her down. Bad idea, really, because he could have just sent her to the abattoir or slaughterhouse.

    Llamas are fiber livestock, like alpacas and sheep. Just because people often keep them as pets does not mean they are not fiber bearing livestock.

    In that respect, there are several problems that I see. First, let me preface this by saying I love llamas. They always look offended and disdainful, and they have lovely eyes. I have only known nice llamas. They don’t have top front teeth. Their most common defense is to spit or sometimes kick. Perhaps Earl had temperament issues, and she decided he needed to be euthanized rather than a problem animal passed on down the line. If so, she did not properly euthanize him. You don’t put an animal down by shooting him in the side. You draw an X from his ears to his eyes. I have personally known peopel hwo had to put down a beloved animal because they were gruesomely injured, and waiting for the vet was going to take way too long. It was painful for them, but it had to be done. Earl was not properly euthanized, and then just languished with his wound. This sounds more to me like she lost her temper and took revenge. I don’t know if she called the vet after she shot him or just left him there. She is using the wrong defense. She did not shoot the animal in self defense. She hypothetically determined him to be a dangerous animal unsuitable for re-homing, and decided to put him down herself. Improperly.

    There are difficulties with livestock laws. I have a flock of chickens whom I love dearly. They are all my pets, and come running to me. They die of old age on my place, except for a few extra Roos I re-homed. I consider them to be pets, but under the law, they are livestock. If someone hurt my birds, that is property damage. Technically, I could kill them all and eat them, with impunity. People raise goats, sheep, cattle, poultry, and rabbits for meat around here. They are all legally allowed to kill them, although they cannot operate as an unlicensed abattoir.

    Did livestock laws allow her to euthanize her own llama, and did the charge stem from here shooting it and leaving it to suffer? If so, then I can support the application of the law. However, did she change her mind about killing him and then call a vet? Did she leave him to suffer in his pasture?

    I believe a self defense claim is unsuitable. She could say she determined he had a dangerous temperament and needed to be put down, but then she chickened out after her first attempt. What I really suspect happened, is that he went after her in some way, she got angry, and she shot him. She didn’t finish the job because she got squeamish or snapped out of her rage. That’s just my opinion, not a fact.

    1. Karen…….I know you must enjoy those chickens! We had an Irish Setter once that figured out where the eggs were coming from, and proceeded to anticipate their “arrivals”. Needless to say our chickens all had bald bottoms…… feathers because of the Setter! She would get to the eggs before and during the laying. The chickens actually didn’t seem to mind. Animals are a scream.

    2. “. Technically, I could kill them all and eat them, with impunity. ”
      That may be but you could also be prosecuted for cruelty if you treated them badly or kept thwem in substandard conditions.

    1. TIAX2 ….Oui, monsieur, as a native, I can confirm that they’re all there ’cause they’re not all here. 😊

  2. Very clearly animal cruelty and she was clearly NOT in her right mind. She could have done a number of things including calling animal care and control. Earl had every right not to ‘like’ her, we don’t know how she treated him on a daily bases he may have been mistreated. If it was pure aggression on Earls part he could be deported. He’s a Llama, he may have been brought here against his will. In any event he didn’t deserve to be repeatedly shot. And if that was the best she could do she really should not have a gun. Unless she was ‘wounding’ him purposefully. Then there is no case at all for anything BUT cruelty. Plus, Earl is an animal. She is an adult. She needs a shrink.

  3. Regarding those humans who arrested her and locked her up: Unless yoiu are vegans you are all guilty of the same offense. Worse. She did not eat her animal. Jeso.

  4. If she instead considered the llama as cattle would she have been within the law to shoot it as a cull or harvest?

    Perhaps it is better to identify animals by their ear tag numbers and not give them human names. Naming them seems to bring forth an unwelcome influence of politics, legal matters, and sympathy. Whereas if they instead were identified as cattle #2017-382 they can be disposed of as property in the ordinary animal husbandry sense.

  5. It was *her* llama, and it was her *llama*; why shouldn’t she have the right to kill it? It’s a huge mistake to afford animals the same rights as humans. Besides, all creatures die, and being shot isn’t that bad compared to say a chronic disease, so why the big deal that she shot it? Shame on you, cops.

    1. She didn’t kill the animal. She wounded it. It suffered gunshot wounds and a broken rib. In other words, it was in needless pain; hence the animal cruelty charge.

      1. That was my take. She left it suffering. I don’t know the circumstances, however. Did she chicken out of euthanizing him, and call a vet? Did she shoot him in a rage and callously left him suffering.

        I can say that this episode will not sweeten Earl’s attitude towards humans. Pity. I rather enjoy llamas. My horses, not so much. Llamas, alpacas, and camels can send a horse into a panic, especially when they rise from a cush. It must seem like Nosferatu rising from the crypt.

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