PETA Demands Psychiatric Intervention for Alleged Seal Tormentors

Women Caught on Camera Apparently Harassing Seals at La Jolla Cove

For Immediate Release:
March 31, 2014

Sophia Charchuk 202-483-7382

San Diego

This morning, PETA sent an urgent plea to Chief Deputy City Attorney Michael Giorgino calling on him to vigorously prosecute Marie Franz and Vanessa Cornacchioli, two women who were allegedly caught on camera harassing a colony of seals, some of whom were pregnant, at La Jolla Cove during the 2013 seal-pupping season. The women were reportedly recorded sitting on the seals, pulling their flippers, and flashing lights at them.

PETA is asking that the defendants, if convicted, be prohibited from having contact with animals and ordered to undergo thorough psychological evaluations. The women are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday, April 2.

“These women allegedly senselessly terrorized pregnant mother seals and newborn pups, invading what should have been a safe and peaceful refuge for these animals to enjoy with their families,” says PETA Director Martin Mersereau. “PETA is urging Mr. Giorgino to show that the city of San Diego will not tolerate such blatant disregard for animals and for the laws designed to protect them.”

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PETA’s letter to Chief Deputy City Attorney Michael Giorgino follows.


March 31, 2014


The Honorable Michael Giorgino
Chief Deputy City Attorney
Office of the City Attorney
1200 Third Ave., Ste. 700
San Diego, CA 92101


Dear Mr. Giorgino:

PETA is an international animal-protection organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters, tens of thousands of whom reside in California. This letter concerns a case that your office is handling involving Marie L. Franz and Vanessa M. Cornacchioli, alleged to have harassed a colony of harbor seals, some pregnant, at La Jolla Cove during seal pupping season. Reportedly caught on film in February of 2013 squatting over and sitting on the seals, tugging at their flippers, and shining flashlights at them, the suspects would have caused their victims immense stress, risked inflicting injury, and disrupted natural behavior at a critical time of year. In fact, we understand that the seals were driven from the beach, which is a designated protected area where they can rest and attend to their pups. Franz and Cornacchioli are scheduled to appear in court on April 2.

As you likely know, mental-health professionals and top law-enforcement officials consider animal abuse to be a red flag—people who abuse animals almost never stop there. If convicted, in addition to serving a period of incarceration, we respectfully ask that the defendants be required to undergo psychological evaluations at their own expense. And because repeat crimes are the rule rather than the exception among animal abusers, we ask also that, if convicted, the defendants be prohibited from contact with animals (a common sentencing provision) for as long as possible.

Thank you for your time and consideration as well as for the difficult work that you do.

Sincerely yours,

Melissa Lewis
Cruelty Caseworker
Cruelty Investigations Department

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