The glow of candlelight illuminated the grounds of the Charleston Animal Society on Saturday night as concerned community members showed their disdain for a system they believe allowed a doctor to avoid felony charges and jail time in the deaths of nine dogs.
“The laws are clear. The laws are there,” the shelter’s CEO Joe Elmore said through a bullhorn. “We need to let them know this decision does not stand with us.”
Charles Allen Bickerstaff, a 65-year-old gastroenterologist, made a deal with prosecutors that saw him pay a $500 fine in exchange for his guilty plea on a single count of abandonment of animals, a misdemeanor, for allowing his Cavalier King Charles Spaniels to overheat in his car in August 2014.
He had faced nine felony counts of ill-treating animals, but those charges were dropped earlier this month. The heftier charges each carried a maximum five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
More than 100 people who gathered at the shelter for a candlelight vigil viewed Bickerstaff’s sentence as a miscarriage of justice that did little to honor the loss of life.