Order to pay for rescued animals’ treatment OK under general restitution statute

February 13, 2015

Because a Perry County woman relinquished her three neglected horses to a local rescue organization, she cannot be ordered to pay restitution based on the animal cruelty statute, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday. But the general restitution statute supports the trial court order Julie Bickford pay nearly $700 in restitution.

A Perry County Sheriff’s deputy believed three horses on Bickford’s property were neglected, so he, a veterinarian and members of Horse Rescue South went to the property. The horses were examined and found to be ill and malnourished. Bickford voluntarily transferred the animals to the rescue organization.

Two of the horses later died and one was adopted. HRS incurred $691.82 in costs for the care of the animals. After Bickford pleaded guilty to three counts of Class A misdemeanor cruelty to an animal, the trial court ordered her to reimburse that amount to HRS as restitution.

Under the animal cruelty statute, Bickford can’t be ordered to pay the restitution because she voluntarily relinquished the animals to the rescue organization, Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote. The statute allows for reimbursement if an animal is impounded, which did not occur in this case.

But restitution to HRS was proper under the general restitution statute, the COA ruled. HRS can be considered a victim as contemplated by the statute. The organization would not have incurred those costs if Bickford had not been neglectful toward the animals.

The case is Julie Bickford v. State of Indiana, 62A01-1409-CR-389.


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