An Iowa man who was accused of animal torture for beating to death his 7-month-old puppy with a baseball bat can go free, an appeals court ruled, angering activists who saw the case as a clear-cut example of intentional cruelty.
But prosecutors didn't prove that Zachary Meerdink, 31, acted with "depraved intent" in the 2011 incident outside a Davenport apartment complex, two of the three judges on the panel found, as The Associated Press reported. No one saw the killing, said Chief Judge Larry Eisenhauer. And Mr. Meerdink didn't seem happy either before or after the beating, he said.
On top of that, Mr. Meerdink testified the puppy had been displaying aggressive behavior and had bitten a 9-year-old, the AP reported.
A police officer found the bloodied body of the puppy in tall grass behind the apartment building, and Mr. Meerdink was arrested shortly after and found guilty of torture in a bench trial. He was sentenced to two years in jail.
The appeals court's tossing of Mr. Meerdink's sentence made animal rights activists see red.
"The decision by the court is inconceivable and breaks the logic barrier," said Lin Sorenson of St. Francis Foundation for Pets, in the AP article. "Beating an innocent dog to death with a baseball bat meets the level of sadistic intent necessary in the Iowa code to constitute animal torture."
Mr. Meerdink's girlfriend had bought him the puppy in 2011, CBS reported. The two reported during court testimony that the dog used to have frequent accidents in the home and was difficult to control.
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