PETA Wants Cruelty-to-Animals Charges for Accused Halfway Hill Fire Starters

For Immediate Release:
July 19, 2022

Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

Millard County, Utah – This morning, PETA sent a letter to Millard County Attorney Patrick S. Finlinson asking that he add cruelty-to-animals charges to those that Michael Joseph Patti, Darri Rae DeWolfe, Talon Lance Kessler, and Tyler Russell Smith currently face for allegedly igniting the Halfway Hill fire, which has already ravaged nearly 12,000 acres and undoubtedly caused countless animals to burn to death.

The group writes in its letter that causing animals to suffer and die painfully, as was likely the case in this fire, needs to be recognized as a violation of Utah’s animal protection laws. The letter notes that an “enormous number of wild animals” resided on the land burned and that prosecutors in California and Oregon added cruelty charges in similar wildfire cases, resulting in convictions on those charges.

“An untold number of terrified animals saw their world disappear, and many were surely burned to death in this devastating blaze,” says PETA Vice President Daniel Paden. “PETA is asking that as these victims are identified, those responsible face charges for causing so much suffering.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Finlinson follows.

July 19, 2022

The Honorable Patrick S. Finlinson
Millard County Attorney

Dear Mr. Finlinson:

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing to request that your office add cruelty-to-animals charges, as appropriate, to the charges for abandoning a fire that Michael Joseph Patti, Darri Rae DeWolfe, Talon Lance Kessler, and Tyler Russell Smith already face in connection with the devastating Halfway Hill fire near Fillmore.

Although no humans lost their lives, the enormous number of wild animals who resided on the nearly 12,000 acres of land burned in the fire were undoubtedly less fortunate. Such catastrophic fires inflict terror and suffering on many animals and cause them to endure prolonged, agonizing deaths.

Utah Code § 76-9-301 states that a person who “recklessly, or with criminal negligence … injures an animal” is guilty of cruelty to an animal and that a person who “kills an animal or causes an animal to be killed without having a legal privilege to do so” is guilty of aggravated cruelty to an animal.

Given that Patti, DeWolfe, Kessler, and Smith are accused of causing a wildfire that surely led to serious injuries and death for an untold number of animals—and that such conduct does not qualify as lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping practices that exempt wild animals from protection against cruelty—I respectfully ask that investigators and your office add cruelty-to-animals charges to those the defendants already face, as prosecutors in California and Oregon did in similar cases—both of which resulted in convictions on those charges.

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


Sarah Deffinger

Senior Evidence Analyst

Cruelty Investigations Department

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

 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