Two more pelicans have appeared dead on the coast since the original $5,600 reward for information was announced earlier this month, bringing the total to 34 pelicans found deceased or severely injured along the Orange County coastline.
The Northern California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund is offering an additional $20,000 on top of its original $5,500 reward for any information regarding the violence against the birds, which experts believe is being inflicted purposely due to the pelicans’ consistent and repeated injuries. Another $100 in reward money was previously offered by an anonymous donor.
“Animal cruelty is a serious crime and the offenses that have been described by the animal care facility and the officials in the area are violent.”Emily Lewis, a senior staff attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said in an interview Wednesday
“It’s important to do everything we can to prevent offenses like that from occurring and holding whoever is responsible accountable for those offenses.”
Lewis also described the frequent link between animal cruelty and violent crime toward humans, another reason, she said, why information regarding the attacks is paramount.
The brown pelicans have been found from San Clemente to Huntington Beach with broken wings since the first case in October 2020, Lewis said. More recently, a pelican was discovered with a twisted wing and bones protruding.
Most of the maimed pelicans died due to the injuries, and the survivors required emergency surgery and long-term care.
The Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach is providing rehabilitative care to the pelicans and is working closely with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on investigating this matter, according to a press release from the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
The maximum penalty in California for maliciously and intentionally maiming or mutilating a living animal is a fine of up to $20,000 or up to three years imprisonment, or both, Lewis said.
The public is urged to call the California Department of Fish and Wildlife tip line at 1-888-334-2258 if they know anything about the attacks. Tips will be kept anonymous.
“We commend the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for taking this seriously and investigating,” Lewis said. “I understand this is still an ongoing investigation, and we appreciate what the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center has done for the birds and in their assistance to law enforcement. We are here to offer resources in any way we can to support their investigation and encourage the community to report.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system, according to its website. The organization says it files lawsuits to protect animals and offers free legal assistance and training to prosecutors so that animal abusers are held accountable.
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC News Intern. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.