Target: Sarah M. Kirkman, District Attorney for Prosecutorial District 22A
Goal: Pursue tough charges against man accused of multiple counts of animal cruelty in Bethlehem.
Police in Bethlehem, North Carolina recently uncovered a disturbing sight. They had been called to investigate a possible case of animal abandonment. What they found was a building full of 19 animals that appeared to have been locked up and left to die. The animals had allegedly been left in small cages, with no access to food or water. At least five dogs were reportedly extremely malnourished, with their ribs clearly visible. Officers found the bodies of three deceased dogs on the premises; two were being stored in an on-site freezer, while a third body had been left out in the open. Police also uncovered the body of a cockatoo in the freezer, and nine dead quails locked in a cage outside.
Sheriff Chris Bowman said the entire building was strewn with garbage and animal feces, according to The Taylorsville Times. The newspaper reported the building had been rented by Matthew Trenton Leeth, who had used the premises as a canine training center.
Leeth is now facing 19 counts of Felony Cruelty to Animals and 19 counts of Misdemeanor Abandonment of an Animal. The felony charges can carry prison time at the discretion of the presiding judge of up to 10 months. Unfortunately, animal abuses charges are all too often not taken particularly seriously by law enforcement and prosecutors. Many of those convicted are given relatively light sentences, or let off with little more than probation. If you believe this case deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, please sign our petition.
Dear District Attorney Kirkman,
Matthew Trenton Leeth is facing 19 counts of Felony Cruelty to Animals and 19 counts of Misdemeanor Abandonment of an Animal. The former charges are considered Class H felonies in North Carolina, and carry a maximum penalty of 10 months imprisonment. We urge you to pursue the maximum penalty in this case.
When police investigated premises rented by Mr. Leeth in Bethlehem, they said they uncovered 19 animals that were either dead, or close to it. The surviving animals were found locked in small cages, with no access to food or water. All were allegedly severely malnourished and emaciated.
North Carolina has a tepid history surrounding animal abuse legislation. For years, animal rights advocates complained the state’s animal rights protections were too weak, with soft penalties for offenders. Efforts to change this culminated in the 2010 passing of HB 1609, which finally introduced felony charges to animal abuse legislation. While this was indeed a major step forward, the ball is now in the court of prosecutors such as yourself to ensure offenders don’t get off lightly. We therefore urge you to pursue the toughest penalties possible in this case of alleged animal abuse.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Fancycrave