Adding Time for Crimes Against Animal Companions

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Two dogs are recovering from injuries after a DUI suspect lead police on a high-speed chase through the San Fernando Valley in a stolen motor home on May 21st.

News video from a helicopter showed one of the dogs hanging out of the driver side window as the suspect made wild turns, slammed into at least six vehicles and sideswiped a tree, shearing off the front passenger side of the cabin. To the horror of witnesses, the dog eventually tumbled out of the window onto the roadway. The suspect did not stop until she plowed head-on into a tree.

California Highway Patrol officers finally corralled 52-year old Julie Ann Rainbird after she tried to flee the scene. Leaving a trail of bloody paw prints, one of the injured dogs trotted close behind the suspect and sat by her side during the arrest. Fortunately, neither of the dogs’ injuries was life-threatening. Three people, including the driver, were reportedly taken to the hospital. One of the victims suffered six broken ribs and a punctured lung.

Microchip scanning of the dogs revealed the registered owner is not the accused driver. Authorities are now trying to contact the listed owner of the dogs.

In addition to DUI, felony evading and felony hit and run, Rainbird could also face charges of animal cruelty and endangerment under California Penal Code 597. Per Rescue Legacy’s review of existing law, Rainbird could be charged under PC 597c, transporting an animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, and PC 597t, confining animals in such a way that they become entangled or injured. Though PC 597t exempts animals confined for transport, it could be argued that the conditions under which the dogs were transported were malicious. As of today, no information regarding additional animal cruelty charges against Rainbird was available.

On May 7th, dog-walker, Jessica Bingaman, and five dogs were killed in a tragic end to a police pursuit in Long Beach. The suspect, a known gang member, was speeding in a stolen van when he crashed into the victim’s stopped car. Bingaman was rushed to a hospital where she later died. Four of the six dogs in her car were killed instantly, two surviving dogs were taken to a local vet where one died; the other sustained serious injuries.

Local mourners, including one of the pet parents of a dog killed in the crash, gathered at the fateful intersection to pay tribute to Bingaman. Alicia Blanchard, a friend of Bingaman, has created a GoFundMe page to raise funds for her friend’s 10-year-old daughter as well as the families whose dogs were killed.

Javier Olivarez of Los Angeles was booked on grand theft auto, felony evasion, DUI, vehicular manslaughter and six counts of animal cruelty. Under California Penal Code 597 he could be eligible for 3 years imprisonment and a $20,000 fine for each count of killing a companion animal. At his arraignment on May 17th, Olivarez pleaded not guilty.

Human-on-human crime must always be punishable. Whenever there are also animal victims, there must also be justice. Familiarize yourself with animal cruelty laws in your state or province. Please lobby your local district attorney’s office for filing compound charges when pets are the collateral victims of a human’s crimes.

Let no one be above animal cruelty laws.