Suspect held on law that bans eating pets

Suspect held on law that bans eating pets
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — An Oildale man accused of animal abuse is being held on a charge that specifically bans eating any animal commonly kept as a pet.

As Eyewitness News first reported Monday, 35-year-old Jason Wilmert was arrested on two charges. One count is animal cruelty. The other is "animals commonly kept as pets or companions; use as food."

Kern County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Yraceburn said he can't discuss details of the investigation, but he admitted to being surprised at the allegations.

"I've been involved with these kinds of cases for a long time," Yraceburn told Eyewitness News on Tuesday. "I don't believe I've ever seen one like this before."

Neighbors near Wilmert's home on Wilson Avenue said they had heard and seen suspicious activity.

"I heard a cat cry," neighbor Joe Nuno said. "It was a weird cry, real loud."

Nuno went outside and said he saw Wilmert in the backyard of the nearby home. Wilmert had fire going on a burner.

"I smelled cooking," Nuno described. "It smelled like some awful meat."

Nuno said he heard later from deputies that another neighbor reported seeing something even worse.

"I guess the lady right here saw him holding a tail, skinning it, it still alive," Nuno recalled.

And, the deputy then related the worst suspicions.

"The cop said, 'Well, you know what, there's some strange things in that house. And, yeah, he's eating animals,'" Nuno described the conversation.

At the district attorney's office, Yraceburn said the law banning the eating of pets was enacted in 1989 and amended in 1996.

"It makes it against the law to use companion animals, or animals that are commonly kept as pets, for food," Yraceburn explained. "Plain and simple."

Eyewitness News checked the law and found it also does not apply to "any livestock, poultry, fish, shellfish, or any other agricultural commodity produced in the state."

This law also doesn't apply to the lawful killing of wildlife, or the legal killing of any animals under laws regarding game animals.

Eyewitness News has also learned that Wilbert faces charges from a prior case. Those charges include littering, resisting arrest, and "unauthorized nonagricultural burning."

Neighbors had told Eyewitness News that Wilmert had been seen starting fires.

A check of the Kern County Superior Court website shows a warrant was out on those three charges. Yraceburn said Wilmert is being held on $15,000 bail on the previous charges.

Bail is set at $7,500 for the two misdemeanor animal abuse charges.

Some neighbors had wondered why even the pet-eating charge is just a misdemeanor.

"The Legislature puts the laws on the books, and that's what we're limited to," Yraceburn said.

He added a rule of law is that charges must be based on the particular circumstances in a case.

"So, if there's a very specific statute that matches the particular circumstances or facts, we're limited to filing that charge primarily," Yraceburn explained.

He indicated the evidence shows Wilmert was catching wild cats and using them as food. Yraceburn said there are no reports of missing pets.

Eyewitness News contacted a woman believed to be Wilmert's relative. She declined to make any comment.

Wilmert is expected to be in court on Friday, facing the previous three charges and the two related to animal abuse.

As surprising at the charge is that bans the eating of pets, Yraceburn said it's simple, common sense.

"We're talking about exactly what everyone thinks of," he said. "Common sense application would be cats and dogs."