Jim Porter: Animal abuse of the worst kind
Special to the Bonanza
TRUCKEE/TAHOE and#8212; Manuchehr Riazati is someone you are not going to like. Riazati had more than 90 animals at his San Diego home and yard, including chickens, birds, guinea pigs, ducks, dogs, rabbits, rats (pets and otherwise) and cats.
After receiving complaints from neighbors, animal control officers made several visits to Riazatiand#8217;s property. What they found was appalling. Not only were there and#8220;random junk itemsand#8221; like old toilets, but a very noticeable odor of feces and urine. Unlicensed, untagged and filthy dogs, sick chickens, feces-infected food and water, cages stacked one on another without solid floors, glass aquariums containing finches that hadnand#8217;t been cleaned, inadequate and contaminated water, infected and malnourished animals, no protection for cockatiels and parakeets from extreme temperatures, inadequate shelter from the sun, dehydrated guinea pigs mixed with rabbits ((with tattered (nibbled) ears)) with only feces-contaminated rabbit food, dead animals found in water dishes, caged animals in the house and yard with no opportunity for exercise, rotten food, infected, abscessed animals and animals with tapeworms. And thatand#8217;s not all.
Despite several visits and citations giving Riazati specific instructions, very little changed over a period of months. Finally the animals were confiscated and Riazati was charged with animal abuse.
Riazatiand#8217;s defense expert, a veterinarian who had no formal training of animal neglect cases and did not examine the animals or see them at Riazatiand#8217;s residence (obviously well qualified), testified everything was fine. The animals were and#8220;happy.and#8221; She opined that and#8220;sometimes animals defecate in their water and food bowls.and#8221; She hypothesized that a bird with feather loss was over-plucking its own feathers.
On cross-examination, the defense expert testified she had never seen anyone with so many animals, and would not give her dog the food and water shown in the photographs of Riazatiand#8217;s yard.
Charged and convicted
Riazati was charged, tried and convicted by a jury of two counts of felony animal neglect and four counts of misdemeanor animal neglect based on evidence he recklessly created a high risk of great bodily injury to animals.
The evidence showed he violated the Penal Code as a person who and#8220;deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter … and subjects any animal to needless suffering … or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter from the weather … and by doing so recklessly exposes the animal to a high risk of great bodily injury.and#8221;
On appeal, Riazatiand#8217;s attorney argued the prosecutor had to prove Riazati had recklessly exposed the animals to a high risk of death, merely great bodily injury.
However, the Court of Appeal noted that Riazatiand#8217;s attorney had asked for the great bodily injury jury instruction, so the request was denied.
The animal neglect conviction was appropriately affirmed. Riazati received a five-year suspended sentence with restitution and a fine of $42,263. Hardly seems enough.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Fair Political Practices Commission and McPherson Commission, both involving election law and the Political Reform Act. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the firmand#8217;s website http://www.portersimon.com.