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Baltimore City Police Officers Slit Restrained Dogs Throat

Jeffery Bolger, a 22-year veteran police officer in Baltimore City, was arrested Wednesday after allegedly slicing a restrained dog's throat and leaving it to die. A second Baltimore officer, 24-year veteran Thomas Schmidt, has been suspended while the department investigates his role in the slitting of a dog's throat, a 7-year-old shar-pei named Nala, while the animal's owner says it took her days to find out how the dog died.

Court documents say Officer Thomas Schmidt held the dog down while a fellow officer Jeffery Bolger slit the animal's throat on Saturday. Schmidt has been suspended with pay during the investigation, Baltimore Police spokesman Jeremy Silbert said. Bolger faces felony animal cruelty charges.

Maryland law treated all crimes against animals as misdemeanors until 2002, when the first felony statute went into effect. Aggravated cruelty to animals carries a potential sentence of up to three years and involves deliberate intent to harm an animal.

Despite the law change, many animal abuse cases are still pursued as misdemeanors. That means such cases tend to stay in District Court, even if more serious charges could have been brought to Circuit Court, where most felonies are handled.

In Maryland, Cruelty or Neglect of an Animal is defined as: "overdrive or overload an animal; deprive an animal of necessary sustenance; cause or procure such actions; if an animal is in a person's charge or custody they may not inflict unnecessary suffering or pain on the animal or unnecessarily fail to provide the animal with nutritious food in sufficient quantity, necessary veterinary care, proper drink, air, space, shelter, or protection from the weather." This is a misdemeanor with a fine up to $1000 and/or imprisonment for up to 90 days.

Aggravated Cruelty to Animals is defined as: "intentionally mutilate, torture, cruelly beat, or cruelly kill an animal; cause, procure, or authorize such action; or except in the case of self-defense, intentionally inflict bodily harm, permanent disability, or death on an animal owned or used by a law enforcement unit." This is a felony which carries a fine of up to $5000 and/or imprisonment up to 3 years. Exemptions are made for veterinary and husbandry practices, research; food processing, pest elimination, training, and hunting as long as the person uses the most humane method reasonably available; normal human activities in which pain to animals is incidental and unavoidable.