Washington, DC—In a letter sent Monday to Florida Gov. Rick Scott regarding the Ocala teacher accused of drowning animals in front of his students, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) urged the governor to reassign the animal cruelty case to another Florida state attorney. In May, Forest High School teacher Dewie Brewton allegedly trapped and, with student participation, drowned two raccoons and an opossum. He suspected that one of the raccoons had killed eight chickens who were being raised by Brewton’s agriculture class.
Brewton retired after the incident and State Attorney Brad King declined to pursue criminal animal charges against him. In justifying his decision, King explained that his office had recently lost an animal cruelty case involving a defendant who had used rusty scissors to cut the tails off four kittens. King also argued that Brewton “did not intend to torture or torment these nuisance animals.”
“The killing of these animals shocked the public’s conscience not only because of the brutality of the method used but also because of the involvement of students,” said Nancy Blaney, AWI’s director of government affairs. “The animals deserve better, the students and their families deserve better, and the community deserves better.”
The coalition’s letter insists that the State Attorney’s Office erred in a number of its findings, and calls on Scott to use his authority to reassign the case to best serve the “ends of justice.”
“The teacher’s actions clearly constitute animal abuse and are made even more serious due to the fact that he solicited student participation, instructing students to fill up the garbage bins with water and holding the animals underwater,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF. “Governor Scott should reassign this case to a different state attorney who will ensure that Florida’s animal cruelty laws are taken seriously.”
According to a thorough analysis conducted by AWI and ALDF, it was never established that the animals allegedly drowned by Brewton were, indeed, the same animals who had killed the chickens. Even if these animals were deemed “nuisances,” Brewton violated Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations, which require that any nuisance wildlife be released or humanely euthanized within 24 hours of capture.
Moreover, Brewton made no effort to consider nonlethal alternatives, the organizations wrote. His actions appear to constitute aggravated animal cruelty, “because his intentional act directly resulted in the animals’ cruel deaths.” “Reassigning this case would indeed meet the test of best serving the ‘ends of justice,’” said David LaBahn, president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. “Animal abuse is a violent crime and animal abusers must be held fully accountable for their actions.”
To conclude, the letter reminds Scott of the national outrage provoked by the case:
“Justice for these animals—as well as confidence that Florida’s cruelty laws and regulations will be enforced properly—depends on your stepping in to assure Floridians and others horrified by this case that it will receive the attention it deserves.”
Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, [email protected]
About the Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org.
About the Animal Legal Defense Fund
The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. The Animal Legal Defense Fund accomplishes this mission by filing high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm, providing free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes, supporting tough animal protection legislation and fighting legislation harmful to animals, and providing resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law.
About the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) is a national 501(c)(3) organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., made up of elected and appointed prosecuting attorneys from throughout the nation. APA provides valuable resources such as training and technical assistance to prosecutors in an effort to develop proactive and innovative prosecutorial practices that prevent crime, ensure equal justice and help make our communities safer.