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Appeals court upholds animal cruelty convictions, sets precedent

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The Michigan Court of Appeals has set precedent by upholding the animal cruelty conviction of a Saginaw County woman. She was found lived in squalor with more than two-dozen dogs in her trailer home.

An inspector found Patricia Parkinson’s single-wide trailer home in Buena Vista Township was overrun with 26 chihuahuas. The inspector said the dogs were not let out, were living in filthy conditions – including cluttered floors covered with urine and feces -- and were infested with fleas.

In the summer of 2020, Saginaw County Animal Control executed a search warrant and removed the dogs. An animal control officer wore a hazmat suit to avoid being bitten by fleas.

Parkinson was charged and convicted of animal cruelty. She was sentenced to 60 months of probation along with paying court costs and restitution. She challenged the conviction on a variety of grounds, all of which failed.

What makes this precedent-setting decision important is the determination that a violation of any single element of Michigan’s animal cruelty law can justify a conviction.

Parkinson argued that the inspector’s report showed the dogs were fed and provided with water and shelter. Her lawyer argued that Michigan’s animal cruelty statute is written in such a way that as long as Parkinson met some of its requirements, she could not be convicted of breaking the law.

The appeals court said that reasoning would lead to an “absurd result” and upheld her conviction.

“We conclude that the failure to provide at least one of the criteria is sufficient, and the evidence was sufficient in this case,” was the final sentence of the opinion signed by all three judges on the appeals court panel.

Bee Friedlander, with Attorneys for Animals, said she was pleased with the decision and that the appeals court recognized the defendant’s argument doesn’t make sense.
“That would mean you could not give food and water, but if you took them to the vet and your house was clean and you exercise them, that would be OK and that’s kind of an absurd result,” she said.

Efforts to reach an attorney for Parkinson were not successful.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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