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March 16, 1990


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Hon. Henry F. Greene, Trial Judge

Before Rogers, Chief Judge, and Schwelb, Associate Judge, and Kern, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rogers

ROGERS, Chief Judge: Appellant Peter Regalado appeals from his conviction by a jury of cruelty to animals, D.C. Code § 22-801 (1989 Repl.) *fn1, on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction. Specifically, he contends that there was insufficient evidence of specific intent. We hold that the statute requires only proof of general intent with malice, and accordingly, we affirm.


On June 29, 1987, Keith Hall was eating breakfast at his home in the 1500 block of Kingman Place, N.W., when he heard the "cries of puppy" dog from outside. Hall, manager of a division of a major computer company, described the cries as those of a "puppy in distress, a puppy, hurt. Scream of a dog, a young dog." Hall and his roommate went outside to investigate the noise and observed appellant in the yard next door beating a puppy. Appellant was "holding the puppy by a leash, a tied rope, in the air, suspending and being held up by his jaw in a choking manner . . . and with his right hand--holding with his left hand and with his right hand hitting the puppy in a manner that caused it to swing and to--hitting it very hard." Hall saw appellant hit the puppy in this manner four or five times in a period of no more than two minutes. According to Hall, appellant was very "angry and out of control."

Hall yelled to appellant to stop beating the puppy, but appellant merely responded by telling Hall to get off his back. Hall continued to yell at appellant to stop, that "the dog doesn't understand," and eventually appellant ceased the beating. Hall then called the Humane Society to report what "felt was violence against a dog that should not have happened."

Donna Kessler, a Washington Humane Society Officer and program assistant to the chief of animal disease, arrived at 1514 Kingman Place, N.W., within fifteen to twenty minutes of receiving a complaint that a puppy was being beaten in the rear yard. After speaking with appellant, who admitted hitting the puppy, but explained that the injuries to the dog's face were a result of the dog being injured a week earlier by a car, Kessler went to the back yard. There she saw the puppy tied to the railing of the steps in a manner "so tangled, the puppy could not move at all." While both Kessler and appellant were attempting to extricate the puppy from the entangled leash, appellant slapped the puppy again on the face, telling Kessler that this is what he had done. *fn2 Fearing for the puppy's safety, Kessler removed the puppy, which she estimated was three months old and weighed ten to twelve pounds, took three pictures of the puppy, and transported it to McArthur Animal Hospital. Kessler testified that she noticed that the puppy's eye was severely bloodshot and appeared swollen, "so swollen that it was covering part of the eye." She also testified that appellant had dealt with another Humane Society officer.

Dr. Morris, a veterinarian for ten years in the District of Columbia, handling predominantly dogs and cats, qualified as an expert in the area of veterinary medicine. He testified that when he treated the puppy, a twelve week old German Shepherd, black-mix, on June 29, 1987, he noticed "several lesions, of different types [;] the most dramatic, most obvious was a swollen left eye with a lot of hemorrhage of the conjunctiva, and nictateans." The puppy also had a swollen right eye but with a less dramatic lesion, "his muscle was swollen, cellulite type of swelling, no hemorrhage involved," and had some old excoriations, old healing scrapings on his left front leg. In lay terms, the doctor explained, the face was generally swollen and puffy, the muscle lesions being more of an inflammation, but the lesions about the eye were bloody and bruised.

After indicating that his education and practice trained him to determine how recently an injury has occurred, Dr. Morris opined that the puppy's injuries were inconsistent with being hit by a car two days before treatment. He explained that the lesions above the eyes were "much more recent than two days," occurring within 24 hours or 12 hours before, while the lesions on the lips were healed sufficiently that the scab was beginning to loosen at the edges, indicating an injury of five to seven days earlier. He further explained that the lesion about the eye was consistent with having been hit about the face since it was a lesion of a "blunt trauma, heavy trauma."

The trial Judge denied appellant's motion for a judgment of acquittal, and appellant called five witnesses in addition to testifying himself. Efraim Rivera testified that on June 26, 1987, he observed a taxi cab hit a black puppy fitting the description of the puppy that appellant had allegedly beaten. According to Rivera, appellant, who was walking in the vicinity of the accident, put the dog in a box and carried it away. Rivera looked at three pictures of a puppy, and although he stated the pictures looked like the same puppy that was hit by the car, he could not positively identify the pictures as the same dog.

Robert Peter George, an abbot in the monastery at 1514 Kingman Place, N.W., see note 3, (infra), testified that on the evening of June 26, 1987, he and appellant were walking down the street when they heard a dog yelling. George and appellant investigated and learned that a puppy had been hit by a taxicab. After appellant transported the puppy back to the monastery, George noticed that the puppy's paws were bloody. He testified further that although he had never seen appellant torture or administer any cruel beatings to the puppy he had observed appellant attempting to housebreak and discipline the puppy by hitting it on the nose with a rolled up newspaper. On cross-examination George admitted that on the morning of June 29, 1987, he saw appellant holding the puppy suspended off the ground, hitting him in the nose.

Gary Bridgeforth and Antonio Lucas, nine year old boys who lived near 1514 Kingman Place, N.W., testified that on the evening of June 26, 1987, they saw appellant carrying a puppy in a box. Appellant told the boys that a taxicab had hit the puppy. Both boys were shown photographs of the puppy impounded on June 29, 1987, by the Humane Society, but they stated that the animal in the pictures looked like another puppy.

James Webb, a live-in custodian at the monastery at 1514 Kingman Place, N.W. from 1985 through 1987, testified that he saw appellant chastise the puppy for defecating and urinating on the floor of the monastery but did not observe appellant mistreat the puppy.

Appellant, age 42, testified that on the evening of June 26, 1987, he was walking with Robert George when they heard a dog yelping. *fn3 A black German Shepherd, about six weeks old, was lying on the ground with blood coming out of his snout and paws. Appellant placed the puppy in a box and took the puppy to the monastery, where he "proceeded to treat or nurse the puppy, to clean his wounds and so forth." Thereafter, appellant tried to house train the dog. On June 29, 1987, the puppy defecated on the floor of the monastery and appellant whacked the puppy on his snout with a rolled bunch of newspapers. Appellant then put the puppy in the back ...

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