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June 23, 2010 / V A Nichols

BP targeted by animal rights activists

Animal rights activists target BP

By Rick Jervis, USA TODAY June 22
NEW ORLEANS — Animal rights advocates are pushing prosecutors to go after oil giant BP with a new weapon: animal cruelty charges.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, sent a letter recently to each of the Gulf Coast attorneys general who have been impacted by the massive Gulf oil spill, urging them to open criminal investigations on BP officials based on state animal cruelty charges.

“As a direct result of BP’s reckless acts and omissions, each of these animals has suffered and endured a tortuous death,” Jeff Kerr, PETA’s general counsel, said in the letters to the attorneys general of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Under Louisiana law, cruelty to animals is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both for each hurt or killed animal. Tallying up the seabirds, turtles, dolphins and other animals that have been impacted by the spill, that could mean serious jail time for individuals, Kerr said.

The offices of the four attorneys general did not reply to requests for comment. A BP spokesman also did not return a request for comment.

Pictures of pelicans and terns saturated in dark crude have filled newscasts and newspapers since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in April, killing 11 crew members and sparking the worst oil spill crisis in U.S. history.

As of Monday, 724 oiled birds had been collected alive and another 957 have been found dead by wildlife officials, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wildlife officials have also counted 387 dead sea turtles and 47 dead mammals, including dolphins. The wildlife service notes that the cause of injury or death have not yet been officially linked to the oil spill.

“Anybody who harms an animal deserves to be held criminally responsible for that,” Kerr said.

Jeff Dorson, director of the Humane Society of Louisiana, said he plans to file a police report in both the Jefferson Parish and Plaquemines Parish sheriff departments this week, alleging that BP violated parish statutes against cruelty to animals, along with littering of waterways and anti-poisoning ordinances.

The intention is to get the District Attorney’s office in each parish to take up the case and file criminal charges against BP officials, he said.

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