In the winter of 2019, Alex Smith of Brookville, Pennsylvania, posted a video showing himself laughing while viciously stomping, kicking, and tearing the antlers off a living deer whom he had apparently shot, as the disabled animal helplessly endured the sadistic assault. Smith was charged with two felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals; felony counts of conspiracy, tampering with evidence, and corruption of a minor; and several state game law violations. Each felony charge carried a possibility of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
In an extremely disappointing turn of events, the Jefferson County district attorney has apparently reached a plea deal with Smith in which he pled guilty to misdemeanor cruelty and game code violations in order to have all the felony charges dropped. News sources indicate that the prosecutor somehow felt that a slap on the wrist was most appropriate: Smith was sentenced to a meager two years of probation and community service and must pay a paltry fine. The 15-year revocation of his hunting license is small consolation given the heinous crime that resulted in the extraordinary suffering that this animal undoubtedly endured. If the deer had been a different species—perhaps a dog or cat—the outcome of this case likely would have been wildly different. Just like the beloved animal companions we know so well, deer are social animals who remain together with their herd family. They also have long memories—they can recall where the best winter foraging spots are and return to their favorite fields year after year.
Please take a few moments to e-mail Jefferson County District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him that the pitiful sentence doled out neither serves justice for the animal who suffered so terribly nor acknowledges the grim implications of animal abuse to the community at large. Be sure to leave a comment on his Facebook page, too. Urge that in the future, he push for abusers to receive strong sentences that include incarceration, mandatory counseling at their own expense, and a ban on contact with animals. Then forward this alert to everyone you know!