Animal abuse. Law enforcement officials say that it's a serious crime, but more often than not, some of the most reprehensible actions committed against an animal receive lenient punishment, to say the least.
Take Michael Vick, the NFL star whose dog-fighting ring got him about a year of prison time before he was released and allowed to resume his career as a highly-paid football star.
This type of proverbial slap on the wrist is what had many animal rights proponents jumping for joy when they recently heard the story of Nick Patterson, a 30-year-old Alabama man living in Tallapoosa County who was sentenced to 99 years for his abuse and neglect of close to two dozen collies on his grandparents' property.
Through oversights and misreporting, sites like Opposing Views and WSFA mistakenly implied that Patterson would have to serve 18 years before he would be eligible for parole. But when you look at the math, it simply doesn't add up, and that has some crying foul and claiming that this sentence is yet another minor punishment for a major crime.
Before getting down into the details, though, here's a recap of why Patterson was convicted in the first place. He kept 14 purebred collie dogs on his grandparents' property, fed them only sporadically, and the only water they had to drink was dirty rainwater.
The 14 dogs were all found alive, though severely malnourished in what officials said was one of the worst cases of animal abuse and neglect they'd ever seen.
Additionally, the rotting carcasses of six other collies were found on the property.
When Patterson got word that he would be arrested for the crimes, he went on the run and committed three acts of credit card fraud.
Once he was finally caught, Tallapoosa County hit him with "12 counts of aggravated animal cruelty, two counts of animal cruelty, seven counts of failure to burn or bury animal remains, and 54 counts of financial transaction card fraud," the Alex City Outlook reported.
As part of his plea deal, he received nine 10-year sentences on the animal abuse counts and three three-year sentences for credit card fraud.
That does indeed total 99 years, but one thing Opposing Views and WSFA failed to pick up on that reporter Mitch Sneed of the Outlook did is this: all of the sentences will run concurrently, or at the same time.
Furthermore, the 10-year sentences are split as follows: two years in actual prison and eight years probation. The fraud charges will be three years in prison, but they will run along with the animal abuse charges.
So in reality, a 99-year sentence will see Nick Patterson serve three years tops, and that's only because he committed credit card fraud, which as it plays out, is a more serious offense than animal abuse.
Nevertheless, Assistant District Attorney Damon Lewis was proud of the conviction.
"If you hurt a child or hurt an animal in Tallapoosa County, you are going to prison," Lewis said. "It's that simple. This has been an emotional case and one that involved some of the worst animal abuse I have ever seen."
So, two years for one of the "worst animal abuse" cases ever. There you go.
Do you think this sentence was a slap on the wrist? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via WSFA, linked above]