Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jason Owens re: the roping donkeys: "I'm gonna use 'em."

This just about sums it up.

Jason Owens of Dos Gringos Productions, who "owns" the donkeys that were to be used for roping in the Van Horn event this weekend, made a lot of promises to people who called to express their concern about the welfare of these animals.

Once he got in front of a TV camera he changed his tune.

I don't know Mr. Owens and have not spoken with him myself. However, I believe that this famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi holds true:
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the ways its animals are treated.

And I think we can tweak that to also say:

The character of a man can be judged by the way he treats his animals.

Using a herd of donkeys who have according to Mr. Owens already been starved and abused to earn money by prodding them with electricity, scaring them into running, and letting team ropers stretch them out flat on the ground, over and over again, is cruelty, plain and simple.

There's another old saying that might apply in this case.

When we know better, we do better.

Mr. Owens, I believe at this point you probably do know better. Why not do the right thing and release these donkeys to Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue so they can live the rest of their lives without doing anything but being what they are: peaceful, loving, sensitive animals?

If you choose not to release them, perhaps you might commit to change not only their lives but your own.  Give them that peaceful, well-cared-for life yourself. Let the money you spend on them be what you will find is a very modest payment for the pure love and joy they give when treated with respect and dignity. 

And if not, if you choose to keep on, in your own words, "using 'em," just remember this:

There are many, many people watching and working to make what you do illegal if it's not already so. There are cameras and video cameras and people who don't mind using them to document terrible things. 

HERE IS THE LINK TO THE INTERVIEW broadcast by the NBC affiliate in Midland, Texas on last night's evening news.
At the 1:23 mark, Jason Owens says, "We haven't done anything wrong and I'm not gonna surrender these donkeys. 
I'm gonna use 'em. I'll sell them if these guys wanna buy 'em." 


Texas Penal Code re: livestock:

§ 42.09. Cruelty to Livestock Animals

(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly:
(1) tortures a livestock animal;
(2) fails unreasonably to provide necessary food, water, or care for a livestock animal in the person's custody;
(3) abandons unreasonably a livestock animal in the person's custody;
(4) transports or confines a livestock animal in a cruel and unusual manner;
(5) administers poison to a livestock animal, other than cattle, horses, sheep, swine, or goats, belonging to another without legal authority or the owner's effective consent;
(6) causes one livestock animal to fight with another livestock animal or with an animal as defined by Section 42.092;
(7) uses a live livestock animal as a lure in dog race training or in dog coursing on a racetrack;
(8) trips a horse; or
(9) seriously overworks a livestock animal.
(b) In this section:
(1) “Abandon” includes abandoning a livestock animal in the person's custody without making reasonable arrangements for assumption of custody by another person.
(2) “Cruel manner” includes a manner that causes or permits unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering.
(3) “Custody” includes responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of a livestock animal subject to the person's care and control, regardless of ownership of the livestock animal.
(4) “Depredation” has the meaning assigned by Section 71.001, Parks and Wildlife Code.
(5) “Livestock animal” means:
(A) cattle, sheep, swine, goats, ratites, or poultry commonly raised for human consumption;
(B) a horse, pony, mule, donkey, or hinny;
(C) native or nonnative hoofstock raised under agriculture practices; or
(D) native or nonnative fowl commonly raised under agricultural practices.
(6) “Necessary food, water, or care” includes food, water, or care provided to the extent required to maintain the livestock animal in a state of good health.
(7) “Torture” includes any act that causes unjustifiable pain or suffering.
(8) “Trip” means to use an object to cause a horse to fall or lose its balance.
(c) An offense under Subsection (a)(2), (3), (4), or (9) is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a state jail felony if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.092, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.092. An offense under Subsection (a)(1), (5), (6), (7), or (8) is a state jail felony, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the person has previously been convicted two times under this section, two times under Section 42.092, or one time under this section and one time under Section 42.092.
(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(8) that the actor tripped the horse for the purpose of identifying the ownership of the horse or giving veterinary care to the horse.
(e) It is a defense to prosecution for an offense under this section that the actor was engaged in bona fide experimentation for scientific research.
(f) It is an exception to the application of this section that the conduct engaged in by the actor is a generally accepted and otherwise lawful:
(1) form of conduct occurring solely for the purpose of or in support of:
(A) fishing, hunting, or trapping; or
(B) wildlife management, wildlife or depredation control, or shooting preserve practices as regulated by state and federal law; or
(2) animal husbandry or agriculture practice involving livestock animals.
(g) This section does not create a civil cause of action for damages or enforcement of this section.

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1975, 64th Leg., p. 917, ch. 342, § 12, eff. Sept. 1, 1975; Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 549, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985; Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 78, § 1, eff. Aug. 26, 1991. Renumbered from V.T.C.A., Penal Code § 42.11 and amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, § 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994. Amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 318, § 15, eff. Sept. 1, 1995; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1283, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 54, § 3, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 450, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1275, § 2(116), eff. Sept. 1, 2003; Acts 2007, 80th Leg., ch. 886, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2007.

I believe this position paper from the Texas Attorney General's Office provides a clear path to making the case that donkey roping is in the same category as horse tripping:


Letter Opinion No. 94-095
December 21, 1994

Re: Whether the activity known as "horse tripping" is prohibited by section 42.09 of the Penal Code (ID# 29575)
Honorable John Whitmire
Criminal Justice Committee
Texas State Senate
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711

You have requested our opinion as to whether the activity known as "horse tripping" is prohibited by section 42.09 of the Penal Code. You have submitted with your request an article from the July, 1994, issue of Horse Illustrated magazine, which describes the practice, as "an event in which a usually young, usually Arabian, underweight horse bound for slaughter is whipped and shouted into a run, so that it can then be tripped with a lariat by a man, a Charro, either on horseback or on the ground . . ."
The article continues: "The goal is to make the horse fall. The horse's rear legs may be pulled out from under it while at a dead run, or its front legs are roped, causing it to tumble forward. The horses' lives end in misery and the injuries they sustain -- both physical and emotional -- have horrified the handful of veterinarians who have been called in to treat the few horses who have been rescued from this fate."
At the time the article was written, the state of California was considering a bill which would specifically criminalize this activity. On September 19, 1994, the governor signed the bill into law. [FN 1]

[FN 1] That bill, enacting section 597g of the California Penal Code, provides: "(a) Poling a horse is a method of training horses to jump which consists of (1) forcing, persuading, or enticing a horse to jump in such manner that one or more of its legs will come into contact with an obstruction consisting of any king of wire, or a pole, stick, rope or other object with brads, nails, tacks or other sharp points imbedded therein or attached thereto or (2) raising, throwing or moving a pole, stick, wire, rope or other object, against one or more of the legs of a horse while it is jumping an obstruction so that the horse, in either case, is induced to raise such leg or legs higher in order to clear the obstruction. Tripping a horse is an act that consists of the use of any wire, pole, stick, rope, or other object or apparatus whatsoever to cause a horse to fall or lose its balance. The poling or tripping of any horse is unlawful and any person violating the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.
"(b) It is a misdemeanor for any person to intentionally trip or fell an equine by the legs by any means whatsoever for the purposes of entertainment or sport.
(c) This section does not apply to the lawful laying down of a horse for medical or identification purposes, nor shall the section be construed as condemning or limiting any cultural or historical activities, except those prohibited herein."

Section 42.09 of the [Texas] Penal Code proscribes injury to "an animal . . . belonging to another," but excepts from this prohibition the injuring of "cattle, horses, sheep, swing [and] goats." Penal Code s 42.09(a)(5). Another portion of the statute, however, provides that "[a] person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly: (1) tortures or seriously overworks an animal." Id. s 42.09(a)(1). "Animal" is broadly defined to mean "a domesticated living creature and wild living creature previously captured." Id. s 42.09(c). Thus, the question you pose is whether the practice of "horse tripping," as described, would constitute "torture."
In Attorney General Opinion H-56 (1973), this office considered whether particular conduct violated article 1374, V.T.C.S. That statute, the source law for article 42.09 of the Penal Code, provided that "[w]hoever . . . tortures, torments . . . or needlessly mutilates or kills any animal . . . shall be fined not exceeding two hundred dollars."
The practice at issue in Attorney General Opinion H-56 was "a pigeon shoot, in which the birds are released as targets, after first having their tail feathers plucked out to effect an erratic mode of flight." The opinion declared that "[i]n common parlance 'torture' and 'torment' have virtually the same meaning, i.e., to cause intense suffering." Attorney General Opinion H-56 at 2. Although the opinion correctly stated that "[w]hether or not people participating in a particular pigeon shoot violate the law ultimately will be a question for jury determination," it did hold that the statute was "sufficiently specific and . . . constitutional insofar as it outlaws the torturing, tormenting, and needlessly mutilating of animals." Id. at 3. Furthermore, the opinion concluded that the conduct described by the requestor "would be sufficient . . . to uphold a conviction of violation of Article 1374 . . ." Id.
In our opinion, the activity about which you inquire -- "horse tripping" -- as depicted in the article from Horse Illustrated, is sufficiently cruel and sadistic that a jury could reasonably conclude that it constitutes "torture." Since "torture" is no longer defined in Texas law, we believe that a jury would be obliged to construe the term in accordance with its commonly understood meaning.
The verb "torture" means "[t]o inflict severe pain or suffering upon; to torment; to distress or afflict grievously." OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY (2d ed. 1989), v. 18, at 278. In a case whose facts are similar to those you present here, a Maryland court considered whether the intentional burning of a dog was unlawful under state law. The court declared "that the burning of a dog to the extent that he had to be destroyed constitutes torture, torment and cruelty," and that no "person of ordinary intelligence" could conclude otherwise. In re William G., 447 A.2d 493, 496 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1982). Although, as the author of Attorney General Opinion H-56 indicates, whether a defendant's act constitutes "torture" must ultimately be resolved by a jury, we believe that a jury finding that a defendant had intentionally engaged in the conduct you have described "would be held sufficient to uphold a conviction of violation of" section 42.09(a)(1) of the Penal Code.
A finding that a person has intentionally engaged in the activity known as "horse tripping" is sufficient to support a conviction for "torturing an animal" under section 42.09(a)(1) of the Penal Code.


Denise at Autumn Sky said...

It sounds very clear to me. Hopefully the law will enforce the code in the "great" state of Texas.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I hope Mr. Owens comes to his senses and stops the abusive behavior towards these poor donkeys. If not I hope there is a way to prosecute him and have the donkeys removed to a rescue where they will get the love and care they need and deserve. Sort of makes you wonder what's wrong with people anyway?

jme said...

wow, that's just shocking... but somehow, sadly, not surprising. hopefully it's not too late for those poor donkeys :-(

Kyle Kimberlin said...

What goes around comes around. Or as they say in Nicaragua, Every pig has its Saturday. His day will come. In the mean time, he absolutely should not have animals. They are to be loved, not used.

Victoria Cummings said...

So, how much do you think he'd sell them for? Maybe it would be the fastest way to help the donkeys if we did a fund-raiser.

Dougie Donk said...

having phoned Mr Owens before the event was called off, he sounded very nice & amazed at the level of opposition to his "harmless" roping event. Having now emailed him about doing the decent thing & turning the donkeys over to Peaceful Valley, why am I not surprised that he hasn't answered?
Let's all keep up the pressure!