A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Open Season for Peacocks

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By Sarah Torrens

Peacocks are among the most beautiful creatures on Earth, but on January 21, a Hawaii jury decided that looks aren’t enough to protect these majestic birds from being pests. A jury found Susan Maloney, age seventy, not guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree for killing peacock with a baseball bat.

Mrs. Maloney admitted to killing the bird after listening to a pack of peafowl cry for hours outside her condominium in Makaha Valley, located on Oahu.  She ran outside with her baseball bat intending to only scare the pack of birds away but when one refused to leave her barbeque and began to defecate in front of her she claims she “lost it.” She grabbed it by the back and killed it with single blow to the head.

Under Hawaii statute §711-1109 “a person commits the offense of cruelty to animals in the second degree if the person knowingly [or] intentionally . . . beats any animal . . . or kills without need any animal other than insects, vermin, or other pests.” The crime is punishable by up to a year in jail time and a $2,000 fine.

Covering the verdict, MSNBC quoted Kenneth Kaneshiro, the city prosecutor, saying that the city would continue to “vigorously prosecute cases of excessive cruelty or ill-treatment of animals.” The article failed to examine the effects this decision may have on future animal cruelty cases.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources in Hawaii does not require individuals to obtain a permit to kill an invasive species. An invasive species is defined as a non-native species that is a threat to human health, the environment, or the economy.

While peacocks are not listed on the Hawaii Invasive Species Council’s high profile pests list, they could qualify under the current statute. Peafowl are not indigenous to the island. They roam in packs, have loud mating calls, and destroy rare, native foliage in public parks.

The destruction of rare plants was one of the reasons that island officials in Hawaii Kai, a town located about forty-five miles from Mrs. Maloney’s condominium, ordered the termination of eighteen peafowl that inhabited a public botanical garden. Oahu’s Department of Parks and Recreation has contracted with the USDA Wildlife Services to care for and manage the animals in the public parks. The peafowl were killed by either carbon monoxide poisoning or a gunshot to the head. Both techniques are recognized as humane methods for controlling nuisance animal populations.

Peafowl met the requirements for elimination in Hawaii Kai. But the peafowl that inhabit Mrs. Maloney’s  condo village were spared elimination because the island’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation has no jurisdiction over peafowl on private residential property.

The jury agreed with Mrs. Maloney that peacocks are pests. Its decision, paired with the island officials’ actions in Hawaii Kai, strongly suggest that Hawaii should officially consider peafowl to be an invasive species. And if the peafowl are recognized as pests, can the District Attorney still charge people with animal cruelty if they kill a peacock?

It is still the District Attorney’s job to charge those individuals who kill nuisance animals with animal cruelty because the law protects all animals, even pests, from being treated in a cruel manner.

When Mrs. Maloney was first charged it seemed that she would be found guilty of animal cruelty because she had beat and killed an animal, and both are actions that are prohibited under the statute. But the jury determined that she was not guilty for two reasons: The bird was a pest and she had delivered only one blow to the bird. The jury believed that hitting an animal more than once implied cruelty in the attacker and found her actions insufficient to fall within the confines of the animal cruelty statute.

Currently there are few ways the government can help with those living in residential areas that have been overrun by the local peacock population.  But unless a higher court rules that these beautiful pests can be killed without any repercussions, those who react as Mrs. Maloney reacted had better have just as steady aim with their bats as she did.

Comments

8 Comments »

8 Responses

  1. Kate says:

    Really interesting article, A+

  2. Jamila says:

    Very interesting article! I liked it a lot!!! A+ for me too.

  3. Tim Bathis says:

    This is a great site and another great article. Bet PETA won’t like this one though.

  4. Jeff Mackey says:

    Hasn’t Susan Maloney ever heard of a white noise machine? That’s what I used to mask the sounds of a peacock near my home. Why move to paradise if you’re going to resort to barbaric (and lethal) force when God’s creatures don’t immediately adapt to your sense of comfort. Beating a bird to death because he makes the sounds that nature intended him to make is appalling and inexcusable. If Ms. Maloney can’t deal with that, maybe she should move back to the mainland.

  5. Lucy P says:

    Peacocks didn’t ask to be brought to Hawaii. Humans are to blame for these birds’ proliferation in an environment where they don’t belong, and we owe it to them to deal with them in the kindest way possible. All animals feel pain and fear, and they deserve protection from cruelty, regardless of whether they are considered “pests” or not. Protecting animals protects everyone because, as study after study has shown, people who abuse animals often commit similar crimes against members of their own species.

  6. Paul Daniels says:

    I don’t think Ms. Maloney should be let off the hook so easily. It seems her actions could lead to a general devaluing of any animal population not native to the islands that is thought to be a nuisance. Perhaps, instead of splitting hairs over whether native animals deserve more protection, Hawaii should strengthen its anti-cruelty laws for animals.

  7. Kalena says:

    I definitely think that ms Maloney got away w/murder. Beating any living thing is inhumane. I recently seen a peacock roaming on the west side of the island & It would never cross my mine to hurt it. In fact I wish I could have gave it some food because it looked as if it was hungry. Maybe Ms Maloney dumped it there :) because the area I seen it in wasn’t an area peacocks usually frequent. Yes, maybe ms Maloney was lack of sleep but come on, beating it to death? Um like others suggested maybe she should move back to the mainland then she wouldn’t have to worry bout beautiful innocent birds disrupting her beauty sleep instead she could worry bout getting eatten by bears or getting bitten by poisonous snakes.

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