A Fowl Cry for Help
PETA reacts to animal cruelty case in Davidson
At age 18, a person can vote. They can buy tobacco, and they can gamble. At age 18, the world starts giving people more options because at age 18, they are legally adults. Once a person turns 18, they are also legally tried as adults.
On March 24, 18-yr old William Luke McDowell of Lexington was in class at North Davidson High School when the police came to the school for a random drug sweep. While in the parking lot, K-9 Halley indicated drugs inside of a vehicle.
McDowell was charged with possession of a schedule VI controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and underage possession of alcohol.
He was given a citation to appear in court on April 21.
On April 21, McDowell made headlines across the state when he was arrested for beating a domesticated duck to death with a baseball bat. According to the Lexington Sheriff’s Department Report, the incident occurred on April 19 on Hampton Road in Lexington. His 16-year old friend videotaped the brutal event, and it was posted on social networks.
A voice can be heard on the videotape saying, “It’s not dead yet, it’s not dead yet! Hard as you can, he’s suffering. Just whack it as hard as you can.”
McDowell was charged at Davidson County Jail with animal cruelty, and his bond was set at $1,000. The friend was also charged on a juvenile petition and referred to juvenile services.
According to North Carolina law, any time an animal is “maliciously tortured, mutilated, maimed, cruelly beaten, disfigured, poisoned or killed,” the person responsible for the act is charged with a Class H Felony. A Class H Felony carries an incarceration punishment of anywhere from four to 24 months.
After the incident, McDowell alleg edly posted a tweet that said, “People think I’m terrible for that video of me killing the duck but I die laughing every time I watch it.”
McDowell’s court date is scheduled for May 19.
A few days prior to the Davidson County incident, two juvenile males in Charlotte were also charged with animal cruelty after beating a gaggle of nesting geese to death with bricks and two-by-fours.
Last week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) heard about the arrest and decided to get involved by offering the TeachKind program to schools in Davidson County, Lexington and Winston-Salem.
According to the organization’s website, TeachKind is a humane educational program that is designed to “teach students how to be responsible citizens. From caring for their family’s animal companions, to taking action to prevent animal suffering, students learn to be compassionate toward all living beings.”
Twelve states have already passed laws that mandate humane education be taught in schools. Only two of the states (Florida and Louisiana) are in the South. While North Carolina does not currently have plans to mandate the curriculum, it may be something to explore in the future.
Marta Holmberg, PETA Director of Youth Outreach and Campaigns, issued a statement recently to explain the good of the program. “People of any age who harm animals are a threat to society,” Holmberg said. “TeachKind’s lessons and posters urge kids to go to their parents, their teachers, or the police to report cruelty to animals the moment it occurs—for sake.”
Coordinators of both PETA and TeachKind think it is important for people to notice that studies do show a direct correlation linking violence to animals and violence to people.
According to a study done in 2004 by Mary Lou Randour, the National School Safety Council, the US Department of Education, the American Psychological Association, and the National Crime Prevention Council all agree that animal cruelty is a warning sign for at-risk youth.
In extreme cases, it has been shown that some of the country’s most notorious serial killers also had a history of animal abuse. Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and Albert DeSalvo all abused animals as children.
A study done in 1999 showed that more than half of the fatal shootings at the schools in the late 90’s were done by teenagers who had a history of animal abuse.
“The prevention of violence can start in the classroom if students are taught to have empathy for all beings,” said Nina Kahn, Coordinator of TeachKind.
Kahn sent a letter to Travis Taylor, principal of Lexington Senior High School. Taylor is also the 2011-2012 winner of the NCASA Principal of the Year Award for his hard work of getting students involved with extracurricular programs. In this letter, Kahn pointed out the importance of humane education in schools, citing evidence that young people “start” with abusing animals, and it can lead to abusing people.
“We’ve heard from Davidson County residents who are deeply upset by the recent news of William Luke McDowell,” Kahn wrote. “Might you consider incorporating humane education into your curriculum? That way, you’d have a chance to reach kids before they ever lash out violently.”
In the letter, Kahn mentioned Teach- Kind’s willingness to participate in the education of area schools by sending free materials, suggesting free lesson plans and visiting schools to host free classroom presentations.
Taylor is not the principal of the school that McDowell or his friend attend, but his school was one of the many in the area who received a copy of the letter.
Along with the letters, TeachKind also sent posters to area schools titled “Abuse: Report It If You See It.” The posters feature a chained dog cowering to phrases like “Shut Up” and “Stupid.” The posters were made in an effort to not only show the correlation between animal abuse human abuse, but also to get young people to speak out against bullying. !