In a single-file, silent march down a State Street sidewalk, local activists in black T-shirts emblazoned with the “Justice for Puppy Davey” slogan hoped their signs and somber demeanor would speak for themselves.
Harsher punishments for animal abusers. Justice for a 5-month-old Doberman pincher that had to be euthanized after a local man tortured him repeatedly over several weeks.
Hundreds took the silent stroll in Santa Barbara on Sunday afternoon, remembering a brutalized puppy and other animals that hopefully won’t have to suffer the same fate.
“The March of Mourning — Justice for Puppy Davey” began at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden, where animal activists and elected officials gathered for a vigil and subsequent march to De la Guerra Plaza.
“The monsters are winning,” said Jill Anderson, founder of the Shadow Fund, a nonprofit organization that shines a light on these issues and also fosters abused or forgotten pets until a permanent, healthy home can be found.
“That’s why we’re here.”
Organizers held up “Puppy Davey” as an example of violence that must be stopped and a reminder that the justice system doesn’t treat animal abusers with the same harshness as those harming humans.
Chen was arrested in May 2014 for animal cruelty charges and for assaulting and strangling his girlfriend, who owned the puppy that veterinarians at Advanced Veterinary Specialists renamed Davey.
Doctors were forced to euthanize the puppy after spending several weeks trying to save it. Authorities have said Chen broke several of the puppy’s bones and used a utility lighter to inflict burns on 80 percent of its body.
Chen plead guilty as charged in May to four felony counts and one misdemeanor count, including two felony charges of animal cruelty, felony assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury, witness dissuasion and violating a court order.
The maximum sentence for the crime was seven years and six months in state prison.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal asked attendees not to blame Hill but the justice system for the leniency.
“I am stunned sometimes by the lack of compassion we have for other creatures,” she said. “I am heartbroken that we are here. We know this certainly will not be an easy task. But if we come together with love, compassion and empathy, I believe we can do this.”
Animal rights advocate Chris DeRose said the FBI is starting to develop a database of animal abusers — that would be available to the public — because authorities realize animal cruelty is the No. 1 indicator of a future serial killer or perpetrator of domestic violence.
There’s a lot more work to be done, DeRose said, since more than 30 states still classify animal abuse as a misdemeanor.
Organizers said they were also working to develop a “Davey Alert” to inform the public and law enforcement when an animal is being neglected or abused.
Before embarking on the somber walk, organizer Diana Basehart said she hoped the group could gather a year from now to share good news about the law’s progress.
Click here for more information about the Davey’s Law effort.