“I would defend real innocent people”

Determined to seek justice for his dog’s death, the latter turned to this lawyer …

Determined to do justice to his dog’s death, the latter turned to this lawyer, who has carved out a specialty in pets. For seven years now, Isabelle Gharbi-Terrin has begged all over France to defend our best four-legged friends, all too often victims of their master’s cruelty.

In Cognac (Charente) she carried the voice of Baguera, a kitten which her owner had left to starve to death; in Chalon-sur-Saône (Saône-et-Loire) she defends the case of Fudji, a German Shepherd who died as a result of burns inflicted by his mistress; in Bordeaux she defends the memory of Cookie, twice defended by her master …

“The people of the voiceless”

“I spent thirty years in criminal law and I had to wait until the end of my career to find my way,” says the lawyer, who has not lost any of his desire and is willingly lyrical when he speaks., Is about his match. “Defending people, I’m tired of it,” she said. Today I am defending real innocent people. I pray for a whole people, the people of the voiceless. »

Because they are speechless and helpless, she was one of the first to beg on behalf of an animal. “I believe that the animal has the right to a lawyer for itself. It’s legally wrong, of course, but it’s still the animal that suffers. We must not forget that they are first and foremost the victims. »

“I believe the animal has the right to a lawyer for itself”

If her prayers for dogs and cats could initially make people smile, she is now pulling an entire team of colleagues (and especially sisters) in line to fight in court. The association she founded, Defense and Animal Dignity, now has about ten female lawyers and one lawyer.

As the time for retirement approaches, she intends to ask for a few more years to see her cases come to an end, but her goal now is to make her association the gateway to “sending cases.”

Fine of up to 45,000 euros

It must be said that justice has evolved much on the issue. Legislation has evolved, more and more cases are leading to a verdict, and courts are taking cases of animal cruelty more and more seriously, sometimes without hesitation to impose severe penalties.

Until now, section 521-1 of the Penal Code has provided for two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros for all “serious assaults” and “harassment of a domestic animal”. Since December 2021, the revised version has given three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros.

In case of aggravating circumstances (the author is the owner of the animal or an agent in the performance of public service tasks, or the acts were committed in the presence of a minor) the author incurs five years and 75,000 euros in the case of aggravating circumstances) .

“Justice evolves and takes these actions at the height of their gravity”

“Justice is evolving and taking these actions at the height of their seriousness, the lawyer notes. When the animal was still considered furniture, the damage was ridiculous, a maximum of around 200 to 300 euros. But that has changed a lot. In Poitiers, the civilians parties 12,300 euros from a neighbor who had killed their dog, Jagger. In Niort, a serial cat killer was sentenced to 10,300 euros in compensation. “

“I want to see them in jail”

Like other animal rights organizations, its ultimate goal is the criminalization of animal cruelty. If they were considered crimes and not misdemeanors, then the sentences would be much greater for the perpetrators. “I want to see them in jail,” she insists.

If criminalization is not yet on the agenda, the lawyer nevertheless notes that “judges are more and more likely to imprison”, pressured by an increasingly mobilized civil society. We have seen up to 18 associations bring civil action to invoke the Iboo case in Marseille. The three-month-old puppy had been burned and nuclear-armed by his torturer, who was sentenced to ten months in prison with continued detention.

In 2021, she received a prison sentence against the former mistress of Icko, the dog she adopted, and who became her fighting mascot. “When I picked him up, he had no more chops. It took me a long time to name her torturer, but she was finally sentenced to four months.”

Modern methods

But according to her, there is still a long way to go: “Too often the judges hear one or two people and close the case. More than half of the cases are not processed or filed without follow-up, or the investigations have not been carried out correctly. And we can count on her to encourage justice.

In the case of the dog Oksana’s death, she welcomes the prosecution’s decision to conduct DNA research. “It is a criminal process that is generally reserved for people. This is a progress that is rarely enough to be emphasized. We can congratulate ourselves on the fact that justice uses modern scientific methods to identify the culprits. »

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