TOMS RIVER – Is animal cruelty being ignored? Some Ocean County residents believe it is.
In that belief, a vigil is planned from 2 to 5 p.m. on December 6 in front of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 119 Hooper Ave. Toms River, to remember a raccoon that was beaten to death a year ago.
The vigil was also planned in order to bring awareness to how animal cruelty is handled in the county.
The incident happened in Lacey Township in December 2018, when a raccoon caught in a snare trap was repeatedly beaten with a baseball bat by several teenagers until the animal died. Video of this beating was shared on social media by the youths involved.
Although there was proof of the animal cruelty shown on the video which caused an immediate public outcry for action, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office, who had the responsibility of animal cruelty enforcement, “was completely silent” according to members of the Lacey Raccoon Task Force, an animal abuse awareness group that formed after the incident.
The New Jersey Fish and Wildlife council saw the video in March 2019 and within minutes admitted the raccoon was treated inhumanly but the council refused to revoke the trapping license from the youths, and referred the matter back to the County prosecutor’s office to handle.
The Ocean County Prosecutor’s office made no statement on the matter and in July 2019 Senator Bob Smith was shown the video which prompted him to write a letter to Attorney General Gurbir Grewal requesting that the Ocean County prosecutor address this cruelty, and also recommended that the youths’ trapping licenses be taken away.
Senator Smith’s requests have been ignored according to the activists. They said they are frustrated that one year after the raccoon’s beating, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office still remains silent about this case, stating they cannot comment on juvenile matters according to the Lacey Raccoon Task Force.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said “this matter was fully and thoroughly investigated by the Lacey Township Police Department Detective Bureau, the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.”
Billhimer added, “while we appreciate the concerns expressed by certain members of the public relative to this investigation, the fact remains that the incident in question involved juveniles. As a matter of law, by statute, information concerning juveniles shall be strictly safeguarded from public inspection and dissemination.
“This Office, as the chief law enforcement agency of Ocean County, would be violating the very law we are sworn to uphold if we were to comment on an investigation involving juveniles. I am keenly aware of the public outcry regarding this matter, I am however constrained by the law.”
Lacey resident Barry Bendar disagrees about the Prosecutor’s need to remain completely silent. Bendar, who is a member of the Lacey Raccoon Task Force said, “this isn’t true. The Ocean County prosecutor issues press releases about other juvenile cases, so why won’t they tell the public what steps were taken regarding this animal cruelty case?
“Is it because they are completely ignoring their enforcement responsibility? We want to remember this animal’s life, and help keep the spotlight on animal cruelty cases that should never be ignored by the prosecutor,” Bendar said.