PETA Calls For Cruelty-to-Animals Charges After Cats Were Killed in 2022 Yosemite Wildfire

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Police have arrested a man suspected of igniting the July 2022 Oak Fire near Yosemite National Park, which burned more than 19,000 acres of vegetation and destroyed 127 homes. The suspect, Edward Wackerman, faces charges of aggravated arson and arson of a structure or forest land—and PETA’s asking the district attorney to add cruelty-to-animals charges to the list.

At least two cats were reportedly killed in the fire, and a third was burned so severely that they had to be euthanized. A cat named Pawsy—rescued by a news crew covering the fire—required extensive veterinary treatment for burns and lung damage. According to news reports and residents’ social media posts, other cats sustained burnt paws. The fire also likely injured, killed, or displaced an untold number of animals who inhabited the forest.

Pawsy the cat with injuries from wildfire known as the Oak Fire

California’s cruelty-to-animals law applies to anyone who “tortures, torments, … or cruelly kills any animal, or causes … any animal to be … tortured, tormented, … or cruelly killed.” Deliberately starting a catastrophic fire that causes animals to endure terrifying, prolonged, and agonizing deaths warrants such charges.

PETA sent a letter to Mariposa County District Attorney Walter Wall, asking him to add cruelty-to-animals charges to those the suspected arsonist already faces, writing, “While it’s well known that the fire destroyed 127 homes, 66 other structures, and more than 19,000 acres of land, such catastrophic fires also inflict terror and suffering on many domesticated and wild animals and cause them to experience prolonged, agonizing deaths. … Given that Wackerman is accused of willfully and maliciously starting a wildfire that led to unnecessary and unjustifiable pain, suffering, and death for animals, I respectfully ask that investigators and your office add cruelty-to-animals charges to those he already faces.”

Precedent exists for such a move: Prosecutors in Monterey County and Oregon added cruelty-to-animals charges in similar wildfire cases, resulting in convictions on those charges.

Hold Wildland Arsonists Accountable for Animal Suffering

Wildfire arsonists should be held accountable for starting catastrophic fires that injure and kill animals. If you learn of a fire in your state, please encourage prosecutors to file cruelty-to-animals charges whenever they can be interpreted to apply.

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