Anne Jordan Phinney

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Anne Phinney crafted the state’s argument in Washington state’s Doll case, which was ultimately successful in upholding as constitutional the trial court’s decision to permanently bar the defendant from possessing animals similar to his victim: Ebony, a neighborhood cat whom he deliberately shot with a .22 rifle, causing such severe injury that the veterinarian who treated Ebony ultimately administered humane euthanasia. Following a conviction for first-degree animal cruelty, the defendant argued that the animal possession ban included in his sentence amounted to a cruel punishment in violation of the federal and state constitutions. Phinney’s argument persuaded the appellate court that a lifetime possession ban fit the Washington State Legislature’s aim of reducing repeat incidents of cruelty; was proportional to — and fine-tuned to meet — the intentional and egregious nature of the criminal violence inflicted upon Ebony; and coincided with the state’s recognized ability to restrict relevant property rights in the face of criminal convictions. Phinney’s work in State v. Doll is not only impactful for animals in Washington, but will also help other states resolve in the affirmative a critical question that had previously gone unanswered: whether animal possession ban sentences can be lengthy (even lifetime) when proportionate to acts of cruelty. Further, Doll reaffirms that animal cruelty laws fundamentally exist “‘not to protect animals as property of their owners, but to protect animals as living, feeling creatures’, regardless of whether they are wild or tame” — a powerful statement, in which the appellate court directly quoted Phinney’s argument on behalf of animals.

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