“I wanted to defend real innocent people”

Determined to obtain justice for the death of his dog, the latter turned to this lawyer…

Determined to obtain justice for the death of his dog, the latter turned to this lawyer, who has carved out a specialty in pets. For seven years now, Isabelle Gharbi-Terrin has been pleading throughout France to defend our best four-legged friends, too often victims of the cruelty of their masters.

In Cognac (Charente) she carried the voice of Baguera, a kitten that her owner had left to starve to death; in Chalon-sur-Saône (Saône-et-Loire) she pleads the cause 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 defenestrated 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 lost none of her verve and is willingly lyrical when he speaks. is about his fight. “Defending humans I’m sick of it,” she said. Today I defend real innocent people. I plead for an entire people, the people of the voiceless. »

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

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

If at the beginning, her pleadings for dogs and cats were able to make people smile, now she is dragging in her wake a whole team of colleagues (and especially sisters) ready to do battle in court. The association she created, Defense and Animal Dignity, now has around ten female lawyers and one lawyer.

As the time of retirement approaches, she intends to plead for a few more years to see her cases through to the end, but her objective now is to make her association the gateway to “dispatching cases”.

Fine of up to 45,000 euros

It must be said that justice has evolved a lot on the issue. The legislation has evolved, more and more cases lead to a judgment and the courts are taking cases of animal abuse more and more seriously, sometimes not hesitating to impose heavy penalties.

Until now, Article 521-1 of the Penal Code provided for two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros for all “serious abuse” and “act of cruelty to a domestic animal”. Since December 2021, its revised version provides for three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros.

In the event of aggravating circumstances (the author is the owner of the animal or an agent in the exercise of public service missions, or the acts are committed in the presence of a minor) the author incurs five years and 75 000 euros in the event of aggravating circumstances).

“Justice is evolving and takes these acts at the height of their gravity”

“Justice is evolving and takes these acts at the height of their gravity, notes the lawyer. When the animal was still considered furniture, the damages were ridiculous, around 200 to 300 euros maximum. But that has changed a lot. In Poitiers, the civil parties obtained 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 damages. »

“I want to see them in sheet metal”

Like other animal rights organizations, its ultimate goal is the criminalization of acts of cruelty to animals. 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 asserts.

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

In 2021, she got jail time against the former mistress of Icko, the dog she adopted and who became her fight 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

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

In the case of the death of the dog Oksana, she welcomes the decision of the prosecution to conduct DNA research. “It is a criminal law process generally reserved for humans. This is an advance rare enough to be underlined. We can congratulate ourselves that justice uses modern scientific methods to identify the culprits. »

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