PETA Wants Cruelty-to-Animals Charges for Accused Oak Fire Arsonist

For Immediate Release:
July 5, 2023

Brittney Williams 202-483-7382

Mariposa County, Calif. – On Wednesday, PETA sent a letter to Mariposa County District Attorney Walter Wall asking him to add cruelty-to-animals charges to the arson charges that Edward Wackerman already faces in connection with the 2022 Oak fire near Yosemite National Park, which burned over 19,000 acres and destroyed 127 homes.

At least two cats were killed in the fire, and a third was burned so severely that they had to be euthanized, while still more cats sustained burnt paws and lung damage. The fire also surely injured, killed, or displaced an untold number of wild animals.

“As the devastating Oak fire ravaged homes and forests, at least three cats died as a result, an untold number of terrified animals saw their world disappear, and many were surely burned to death,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is asking District Attorney Wall to hold the perpetrator accountable for causing so much suffering.”

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.

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 about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to District Attorney Wall follows.

July 5, 2023

The Honorable Walter Wall

District Attorney

Mariposa County

Dear Mr. Wall:

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing to request that your office add cruelty-to-animals charges, as appropriate, to the arson charges that Edward Wackerman already faces in connection with the devastating Oak fire near Yosemite National Park.

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. For example, the Oak fire is known to have killed at least two cats and burned another so severely that the animal 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.

Cal. Penal Code § 597(b) states that any person who “tortures, torments … or cruelly kills any animal, or causes … any animal to be … tortured, tormented … or cruelly killed” is guilty of cruelty to animals. Cal. Penal Code § 599b states that “‘torment,’ ‘torture,’ and ‘cruelty’ include every act … whereby unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering is caused or permitted.”

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. Prosecutors in Monterey County and Oregon pursued these charges in similar cases that resulted in convictions last year.

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.


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“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

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