It’s been a bit over 10 months since dozens of cats were found dead inside and underneath the Belton, South Carolina home of Julianne Westberry. Several people have recently asked me as to when her trial is to be set, but no information is available as to an exact date. The wheels of justice turn slowly in South Carolina, as they do in many other areas of the United States.
This, however, may be a good thing, as animal advocates are trying to revive a petition asking for each cat who died by her neglect, as well as each allegedly fraudulent donation she accepted, result in a separate charge. The petition, titled “Charge Julianne Westberry with class one felonies of animal cruelty for every cat dead or alive found in her home and for each donation she received fraudulently,” can be found here (opens new window).
For those of you who don’t do petitions, you can contact Chrissy Adams at the Anderson County Solicitor’s Office (864)260-4046. Since the case hasn’t gone to trial, there’s still time to ask for more charges.
The fact that Westberry didn’t receive more charges (so far there are only a couple for ill treatment of animals, as well as a SLED investigation into taking funds under fraudulent pretense), is a nightmare for cat lovers. Because if the abused and deceased animals had been dogs, more charges would likely have been listed on the warrant for her arrest.
One reference case is Deborah Sheridan, who is now infamous in upstate South Carolina for having dogs seized from her Easley property, which is in the same county as the Westberry cats. Her latest arrest was just last month. The dogs in her care were still ALIVE, yet Sheridan was charged with 60 counts of ill treatment towards animals. Lt. Sheila Cole with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office stated each ill treatment charge will be considered separately, and carries a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.
Another recent case took place in late January, with arrests coming only a week ago, when Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office announced that four people were arrested and charges filed after 66 Chinese Shar-Pei dogs were rescued from 1249 Old Dairy Road in Summerville on January 30 2015. Charged were Tracy Humbert Lamere, 45, John Christopher Barnett, 45, Michael Duane Lauer, 63, and Susan Knisely Lauer, 69. These are considered felony charges punishable for 180 days to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
Again, keep in mind that in both of these cases, the dogs were still alive. With Julianne Westberry, we’re dealing with at least 60 dead cats and as many as 700-800 missing and presumed dead.
Dogs in Georgia also tend to lead to more charges for abuse and neglect. In July 2014, Joy Wise, owner of Heavenly Kennels in Cherokee County, Georgia was charged with 264 counts of animal cruelty after 357 dogs were rescued from a puppy mill.
Please sign the petition or contact the Anderson County Solicitor’s Office and let them know you expect more charges to be filed. Feel free to use the reference articles listed below as proof cats aren’t treated as equals. Not in Anderson County, the state of South Carolina or when compared to charges filed one state over in Georgia when dogs are the ones being neglected.
Does ANYONE out there know why dog abusers are given more charges and the abuse taken more seriously than when a CAT is abused. I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this one.