Animal Advocates Struggle with Court System

January 10, 2007 - Posted at 5:45 p.m. CST

HARRISBURG-After a criminal trial in Harrisburg ended with the defendant being aquitted and an alleged agreement being made for care of the animals, members of the East Arkansas Humane Society are pushing forward with a  civil suit. They say however that more needs to be done to protect animals.

As she looked through a book of photos, Julanne Ingram of the Humane Sciety of Eastern Arkansas said she is saddened that animal abuse cases are not better prosecuted in the region.

"It's the prosecutors. They are simply not interested in prosecuting our cases. And we don't take many cases to court," said Ingram.

While she says there's not a lot of time given to animal abuse cases, prosecuting attorneys like Constance Graysin who handled two of Ingram's cases in Poinsett County says, they are being treated like any other case.

"I talked with witnesses and prepared them before the time of trial. We had a dedicated day in district court to try these cases, which is almost unheard of," stated Graysin.

But the Humane Society feels that's where things fall apart, in the courtroom.

"The judge said we did not prove the cattle belonged to him and that we did not show an address which was all in the folder on the prosecutors desk in front of her in the court room," siad Ingram.

The case in which she is talking of involved dozens of cattle allegedly abused in Poinsett County.

But prosecutors say what was in that folder doomed the case from the start.

"Photographs taken by the Humane Society when first at the site showed there was clearly feed available for the cattle," said Graysin.

However, Ingram tells us those photos represented old hay that had been left for some time to rot.

Additionally prosecutors tell us another hinderance in the case was key testimony from the state veterinarian that did not prove the cause of death of those decomposed carcasses.

"Prosecuting animal abuse cases is in a criminal context," said Graysin.  "You have the criminal burden of proving your case beyond a reasonable doubt. That is an extremely high burden. It's the same burden as if you were proving a capital murder case."

But for animal advocates, the burden of proof sometimes falls short.

"It's very frustrating. That's our whole focus is to save the animals."

Currently animal abuse serves as a class "A" misdemeanor in the state of Arkansas.

We're told the East Arkansas Humane Society filed the pending civil suit in hopes of recovering money spent on care and boarding of those cattle.