Animal cruelty can qualify as domestic violence, state supreme court says
The Temple of Justice in Olympia, Washington, where sessions of the Washington Supreme Court are convened. Photo from Shutterstock.
An animal cruelty conviction for beating and killing an intimate partner’s dog can qualify for a domestic violence designation under Washington law, the Washington Supreme Court has ruled.
The state supreme court ruled Feb. 17 in a case against Charmarke Abdi-Issa, who was accused of beating and killing his girlfriend’s dog, Mona.
When a case has a domestic violence designation in Washington, it receives priority scheduling and can result in a pretrial no-contact order. Judges can also impose specialized no-contact orders at sentencing that can constitute a separate crime if there is a violation.
Although animal cruelty isn’t listed in the domestic violence statute, it is sufficiently similar to listed crimes that the trial judge was permitted to ask jurors to decide whether it was a crime of domestic violence, the state supreme court said.
That conclusion is consistent with state sentencing law, which says domestic violence involves physical harm or sexual and psychological abuse that is part of a pattern of assaultive, coercive or controlling behaviors, the court said.
Mona was a small Chihuahua and dachshund mix. Abdi-Issa didn’t like the dog, the girlfriend had testified.
The incident happened when Abdi-Issa was out with his girlfriend and the dog in Seattle’s International District. Abdi-Issa insisted that the girlfriend allow him to take Mona for a walk. The girlfriend objected, but she felt powerless to stop Abdi-Issa.
Soon after he left, Abdi-Issa called his girlfriend and said Mona had gotten out of her harness and could not find her. The girlfriend then heard the dog yelping over the phone.
Two passersby heard a sound of distress and saw Abdi-Issa make stabbing motions toward Mona and then saw him kick the dog so hard that she went up into the air and flew into the bushes, according to their testimony.
One of the passersby called police, while the other yelled at Abdi-Issa to stop. Two officers arrived on the scene. Mona was transported to an emergency veterinary clinic, where she later died from multiple instances of blunt force trauma.
Jurors found Abdi-Issa guilty of animal cruelty and found that one sentencing aggravator applied because the crime had a destructive and foreseeable impact on a third party—in this case, one of the passersby.
Abdi-Issa received a one-year sentence for animal cruelty, plus an additional six-month sentence for the aggravating factor. The court also imposed an order barring contact with the girlfriend.
The court majority affirmed the trial judge’s decision to allow jurors to consider the aggravating factor.