Halfway Hill Fire in Millard County increased moderately overnight, Millard County, UT, July 9, 2022 | Photo by Utah Fire Information, St. George News

ST. GEORGE- The Halfway Hill Fire near Fillmore has burned nearly 12,000 acres, and now the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is urging Millard County to charge the four men who were allegedly arrested in connection with the fire with cruelty to animals.

Smoke rises from the ongoing Halfway Hill Fire in the mountains of Fishlake National Forest outside Fillmore, Utah, July 11, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Utah Fire Info, St. George News

In a Press release published on July 19, PETA announced that it had sent a letter to Patrick S. Finlinson, the attorney for Millard County, requesting that Michael Joseph Patti, Darri Rae DeWolfe, Talon Lance Kessler and Tyler Russell Smith be charged with cruelty towards animals, in addition to any criminal act. costs they can currently afford.

“(The fire) has already ravaged nearly 12,000 acres and has undoubtedly caused the death of countless animals,” the statement said.

The letter, written by the organization’s senior evidence analyst, Sarah Deffinger, says the fire has caused animals to “suffer and die painfully” and that it “must be recognized as a violation of animal protection laws.” Utah animals.

The organization used Utah area code 76-9-301 to make his point, citing the section that says a person is guilty of cruelty to animals if they “recklessly or with criminal negligence… (injures) an animal” and a person who “kills an animal or cause an animal to be killed without having the legal privilege to do so” is guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals.

“Although no humans lost their lives, the huge numbers of wildlife that resided on the nearly 12,000 acres of land scorched in the fire are undoubtedly less fortunate,” Deffinger wrote. “Such catastrophic fires inflict terror and suffering on many animals and cause them to endure prolonged and excruciating deaths.”

A squirrel in a tree, Dixie National Forest, date not specified | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

Additionally, Deffinger said that in similar cases, prosecutors in California and Oregon have added animal cruelty to charges against offenders, resulting in convictions.

The group wants “those responsible (for) to face charges,” PETA Vice President Daniel Paden said in the statement.

Deffinger said the fire caused serious injuries and the death of “untold numbers of animals”. Because this situation did not fit the description of Utah’s wildlife exemption for those who legally hunt, fish or trap, the four men who allegedly caused the fire could be charged with animal cruelty, a she writes.

Nicole Meyer, a spokeswoman for PETA, said the organization was alerted to the case while regularly monitoring reports of human-caused wildfires.

In the short term, Meyer said PETA hopes prosecutors will thoroughly review cases of animals killed or injured in the Halfway Hill fire and file “appropriate criminal charges” and said next steps are up to County of Millard.

This file photo shows a mule deer among aspens, Fishlake National Forest, Utah, August 5, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

“Killing a single animal by setting it on fire or smothering it with smoke is cruel and illegal,” she said. “If this were done to a single dog or a cat, the public would be rightly outraged and felony charges would likely be filed. The animals that undoubtedly died in this fire felt the agony of burning alive or suffocating to death, and they deserve the same protections under the law.

PETA also said that while it’s too late to save the animals killed in this wildfire, the public can help mitigate climate change and the increased risk of wildfire associated with it by going vegan, said Meyer, adding that those interested can order a free vegan entree. organization kit website.

Additionally, Meyer said citizens who wish to support affected animals can donate or volunteer with local wildlife rehabilitators.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources offers a list of local wildlife rehabilitators, which can be found here.

St. George News contacted Finlinson, who said he had no comment at this time.

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