Record Award in Oregon Abuse Case

Posted on October 10, 2002

(Brookings, Ore.) In a landmark animal-law verdict, an Oregon jury has awarded $135,000 to a family whose dogs
were intentionally poisoned. 

The Ingwerson family of Brookings, Ore., lost four dogs — two died
in 1995, two the following year. Though the Ingwersons believed a neighbor was responsible, local
law enforcement officials declined to follow up. So the family brought their case to longtime ALDF
member attorney Scott Beckstead.

After the neighbor they accuse of the poisonings, Jerry Whitman, died earlier this year, the
Ingwersons sued his estate, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress. At the trial,
Whitman’s widow testified that he was hypersensitive to loud noises, such as barking. The jury
also heard from a witness who saw Whitman approach one of the Ingwersons’ dogs with a small
box the same day the dog died.

Jack, a border collie, had been poisoned by slug bait. The other dogs were all euthanized after
ingesting antifreeze.

The jury’s $135,000 award far surpasses previous awards in cases involving animal companions.
And Beckstead said the verdict could act as a precedent — and a warning to abusers.

"The verdict creates another anti-cruelty enforcement mechanism when the criminal process
fails,” Beckstead said. “It also indicates that juries are recognizing the importance of
human-animal relationships. And it sends a strong message to those who are inclined to
intentionally harm animals that they may face serious economic consequences even if there is
no criminal prosecution.”

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