PROVO, Utah (ABC4 News) - A Utah County man has taken a plea deal in a horrible case of animal cruelty.
Provo Police say 26 year-old Spencer Pedersen is responsible for the torture and killing of up to 11 cats when he was arrested back in November, 2016. Police responded to an address near 1300 N, 300 W at 3:00 a.m. on November 15, 2016 to find a kitten on fire. The kitten was alive but later had to be euthanized.
The incident prompted an animal cruelty investigation where neighbors reported seeing strange and aggressive interactions between Pedersen and several cats in his possession.
Neighbors reported finding carcasses throughout the neighborhood. Another found a dead cat in the trash and one was reportedly found dead with a rope around its neck throughout a span of several weeks. Police obtained a search warrant where they found a dead cat in Pedersen's trash as well as drug paraphernalia and heroin. Police also say he was responsible for torturing several other cats which he would adopt for free from online ads.
Pedersen was arrested and booked into the Utah County Jail on Wednesday, November, 16th. He was charged with two counts of animal torture and one count of possession of heroin with the intent to distribute; all three are felonies.
"We think this was such an egregiously brutal act," said Gene Baierschmidt, Executive Director of the Human Society of Utah. "This person definitely needs to do jail time."
On Tuesday, Pedersen plead guilty to one county of animal torture and one drug charge, the other charges were dismissed.
"He should not be given a slap on the wrist," said Baierschmidt.
In 2008 the Utah State Legislature passed Henry's Law which made it a third-degree felony to torture a cat or dog in the state of Utah. Under the law a person can face anywhere between 1-5 years in prison. And the Human Society says the law should be exercised in this case to its full extent.
"We really feel that if this is plea bargained down and they're not charged to the full extent of the law then this could send a message to the community that things like torturing animals are not being taken seriously," added Baierschmidt.
The Utah County Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case and the Humane Society is making a push to get the plea bargain moved to a harsher sentence.
"We are sending them a letter asking them that he be processed to the full extent of the law under Henry's Law and that we hope that they do that," says Baiershmidt.
The Utah Humane Society cited research that says those who are known or have been abusive towards animals are more likely to commit violent crimes against humans as a reason for this case to not be taken lightly.
"This like this have to be taken seriously," Baierschmidt said.
Pedersen will be sentenced on January 24, 2017.
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