NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - A neglected pitbull called Teela is a case county attorney John Fleming won’t forget.
Even a year later, the prosecutor has difficulty expressing his reaction when viewing images of the skinny dog. He does know if the opportunity was there at the time, he would have sent the stacked court files to a higher level.
"I think a case like that we would have worked closely with the feds,” said Fleming.
Teela was rehabilitated in a new home. Her previous owner gets rehab behind bars for a year, but Fleming knows state sentences can be probated. Federal convictions lead to stiffer penalties that stick.
“If you get, for example, a five-year sentence on an animal cruelty system in the federal system, you’re going to do five years,” explained Fleming. He added, “It doesn’t impede a state prosecution.”
Animal advocates with the Humane Society of Nacogdoches County praise the possibility of making animal cruelty a federal felony.
“I think now that people are starting to see it’s the first step to other abuses that maybe they will start to take action against it,” said office administrator Jennifer Bryant.
“The great thing about this is its bi-partisan support and animals don’t care about sides. They care about loving homes,” said program director Judy Patch.
"This is a pretty typical afternoon in the Fleming household," says Fleming while showing off a picture of his dog stretched out sound asleep.
Fleming's dog was rescued years ago after juveniles set it on fire, so he does have a personal stake at seeing animal cruelty becomes a federal felony. He believes it's the best deterrent to crimes against animals who can't speak for themselves.
The measure must next pass the Senate, which has not scheduled a vote on it.