In my view, the miserable existence of Travis Archer should forever be defined by the brutal beating death of a 9-month-old Labrador retriever named Ponce – an innocent dog, who, according to records, suffered “…extensive trauma to three sides of his head, six fractured teeth, a fractured lower jaw, two broken ribs and other injuries. . .”
I will always look upon Mr. Archer, and those like him, with disgust – something best held at a distance – a golem formed of excrement, a monster beyond redemption.
And I hope this grisly stigma follows anyone who would maliciously torture, abuse, and kill animals – so that those who commit these atrocious crimes never become accepted members of a civil and just society.
After serving in law enforcement most of my life, I have developed a burning hatred for those who cause harm to the vulnerable – children, the mentally challenged, elderly persons, defenseless animals – sentient beings who cannot protect themselves from victimization and exploitation.
‘Hate’ is a strong word, but I accept these feelings as a natural psychological reaction after more than three-decades observing man’s brutal inhumanity to the helpless – years when I was forced to approach these horrific cases with a cold, unemotional professionalism – physically suppressing the normal feeling of human outrage.
I have come to realize that, over time, attempting to overpower and compartmentalize one’s instinctive emotions takes a toll. I suppose that is why this blog has proven so cathartic.
As an “advanced” culture, we rely on the rule of law as a means of seeking what passes for justice, and, in the case of Travis Archer, the law in place at the time of the crime worked – sort of.
From the start, Mr. Archer received incredibly competent and aggressive representation from his lawyer, Aaron Delgado – one of the best in that difficult business – who fulfilled his role, and lawful duty to the system, by using every legal means available to present a vigorous defense and ensure his client’s rights were protected.
According to reports, following Archer’s no contest plea to felony animal cruelty, Circuit Court Judge Sandra Upchurch levied appropriate sanctions, fines, and fees, then reasonably ordered that he never again be permitted to own an animal.
Sounds fair, right?
After all, the courts typically rule that those who use technology and the internet to steal from or exploit others cannot have access to computers – nor should they.
It’s a viable means of limiting access to future victims.
Unfortunately, in a split decision, the Fifth District Court of Appeals recently ruled that Judge Upchurch exceeded the scope of her jurisdiction, ruling that Archer could not be barred from owning animals for the rest of his life – only for the duration of his three-year probation.
Fortunately, that should never happen again.
Thanks to the intrepid animal rights activist Debbie Darino – whose legendary fight for what would become known as Ponce’s Law – added enhanced penalties for those who would abuse defenseless animals, including a new provision of the law that permits judges to order a lifetime ban on animal ownership for those convicted of these heinous crimes.
Obviously, those protections were not in place at the time of Ponce’s death.
Now, Ms. Darino is continuing her compassionate crusade to ensure adequate protections for vulnerable animals by fighting hard for anti-tethering and adequate shelter ordinances in all cities in Volusia County – and she is working hard with State Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff of DeLand to introduce legislation in the 2021 session which will clarify the animal cruelty statute and ensure that offenders are properly charged with a felony crime.
I hope you will join me in supporting Ms. Darino’s inspiring efforts to seek protections – and justice – for defenseless animals who cannot speak for themselves.
Thank you for your outstanding work – and for your humanity, Ms. Darino.
You are one of Volusia County’s true Christmas Angels!