PETA Wants Accused Arsonist Charged With Animal Abuse

The Almeda Fire Has Killed Countless Wild and Companion Animals—Group Says Cruelty Charges Must Not Also Be Lost in the Fire

For Immediate Release:
September 17, 2020

Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

Phoenix, Ore. – This morning, PETA sent a letter urging Jeremy Markiewicz, the chief deputy district attorney of Jackson County, to file appropriate cruelty-to-animals charges against Michael Jarrod Bakkela, who currently faces arson, criminal mischief, and reckless endangerment charges after he allegedly started a fire that contributed to the devastating Almeda fire.

“An enormous number of wild and domesticated animals, including beloved companions, experienced terror and agony before perishing as a result of the Almeda fire,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “The enforcement of cruelty-to-animals laws must not go up in smoke—the person responsible needs to be held accountable for violating Oregon’s animal protection laws.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit

PETA’s letter to Markiewicz follows.

September 17, 2020

Jeremy Markiewicz

Chief Deputy District Attorney

Jackson County

Dear Mr. Markiewicz,

I hope this letter finds you well. We’re writing to request that your office add appropriate cruelty-to-animals charges against Michael Jarrod Bakkela, who already faces arson, criminal mischief, and reckless endangerment charges related to a fire that he allegedly started in Phoenix, which contributed to the devastating Almeda fire. Cruelty-to-animals charges must not be lost in this fire, too.

While the Almeda fire’s human death toll and destruction of more than 2,300 homes are well known, such catastrophic fires also cause many wild and companion animals to endure terror, suffering, and prolonged, agonizing deaths. Animal remains have been found in the debris of the Almeda fire, and veterinary clinics have reported treating cats for painful burns as well as for possible respiratory damage and neurological problems.

ORS §167.320 states that a person “commits the crime of animal abuse in the first degree if … the person … recklessly … [c]auses serious physical injury to an animal … or … [c]ruelly causes the death of an animal.”[1] Given that Bakkela is accused of cruelly contributing to a wildfire that led to serious physical injuries and death for an untold number of animals, we respectfully ask that investigators and your office add animal abuse charges to those he already faces.

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


Sarah Deffinger

Evidence Analyst

Cruelty Investigations Department

[1]ORS § 167.320, “Animal abuse in the first degree” <> (Last accessed on September 16, 2020).

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind