North Carolina man, Ernesto Rodriguez, recently sparked a Facebook firestorm for posting pictures of his two Pitbulls after tattooing them. Rodriguez, a former Army veteran and owner of Planet Ink tattoos said he tattooed his hounds for identification purposes. Initially Rodriguez claims to have tattooed his female, Duchess, while she was still sedated after having her ears clipped at a vet. Upon the photos being posted, animal control is noted to have come to his home and left without taking immediate action. To that end, Rodriguez posted “Animal control came looked at my beautiful dog and left…. Wow… what a waste of tax payers money… so im still gonna tattoo my dogs whenever i feel like it… good try haters thanks for all the advertisement.” Yes, there are numerous grammatical errors. Evidently that’s how Ernesto rolls. Tattooing dogs and bad English, that’s what Ernesto does!
Ultimately the Stokes County Health Department and Animal Control have elected to investigate Rodriguez despite no charges filed at this time. He has been issued a cease and desist letter in the meantime.
Ask any Tampa criminal attorney what the toughest cases they have to defend are and you’ll likely hear sex crimes and animal cruelty cases. Understandably, both of these types of crimes strike a serious nerve with the general public, thereby making it extremely difficult for a Tampa criminal lawyer to try before a jury. We are all too familiar with the Michael Vick case for dog fighting and subsequent killing of Pitbulls and the general neglect claims where one gets a dog and fails to care for them. This case is odd and depending on how it would be charged in Florida, could be tough for both the Prosecutor and Defense.
I would think, were this case to have occurred in our fine State, any State Attorney’s Office would at least attempt to charge this case under Florida Statute 828.12(1) as a misdemeanor. Per this Statutory subsection any person who unnecessarily overloads, torments…. or unnecessarily mutilates…. any animal…. is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Under subsection (2) of this same statute if it can be proven that in the act giving rise to a charge under 828.12 excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering occurs the individual can be guilty of a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in the Florida Department of Corrections and a $10,000 fine. For clarification, Florida Statute 828.02 defines “animal” to be “every living dumb creature” and “torture,” “torment,” and “cruelty” includes “every act, omission, or neglect whereby unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering is caused.”
All that being defined, I believe Ernesto would be up a creek if he would have done this in Florida and it can be proven that the dogs were awake when the tattoo was performed. Clearly his dogs are animals and for anyone that’s ever had a tattoo I bet they’d tell you that it’s painful. That being said, his tattoo was unnecessary for identification as there are these things called dog tags that are said to have magical identification powers without the pain of a thousand needle pricks. Because his actions, if the dogs were awake, would fit the definition of “torment” under 828.02 he could be charged and likely convicted of a first degree misdemeanor.
Considering the tattoo looks relatively large and thorough the State may have a case for a felony count, alleging that the torment was excessive or repeated. From a literal standpoint a tattoo needle repeatedly punctures the skin and because “repeated” is undefined through Statute or case law, a case theoretically could be made for a felony conviction based on this. At the end of the day, and to the State’s benefit, the literal reading of the Statute mentions “an act to any animal which results in the…. repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering.” A possible defense posed by a Tampa criminal attorney could be that the tattoo is not repeated, as it is one act. However, I believe the State could overcome this by citing the literal language of the Statute and that it seems to only require one act that within inflicts repeated unnecessary suffering.
At the end of the day Tampa criminal lawyers would tell you that tattooing your dog is never a great idea even if it is for identification purposes. Personally, I think Rodriguez’s actions should be looked into by the State Attorney’s office. Yes, I am a criminal defense attorney but at the end of the day, cruelty to animal charges that are well founded must be prosecuted justly. Just as justice must be served for human beings so must it be for animals too. For the record, the Chief Executive Officer of The Mayberry Law Firm, Sir Caesar of Mayberry does not approve of Ernesto Rodriguez’s actions.
The Mayberry Law Firm is available for a free consultation at 813-444-7435 or 727-771-3847.