Pedersen sentenced for burning live kitten

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MURRAY, UT (Jan. 23, 2017) -- Humane Society of Utah executive director attends hearing, makes statement on behalf of cats killed.

Spencer Jens Pedersen, a 26-year-old Provo man, was sentenced Monday, Jan. 23, by Judge Robert C. Lunnen of the 4th District Court in American Fork, Utah. The Humane Society of Utah (HSU) Executive Director Gene Baierschmidt attended the sentencing hearing. Pedersen was sentenced zero to five years in a Utah State Penitentiary for both third-degree felony counts -- torture of a companion animal and possession or use of a controlled substance, to run concurrently. HSU hopes Pedersen serves the maximum time.

Pedersen was arrested by Provo police officers Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, on reports of torturing and killing up to 11 cats in Provo, Utah. On Tuesday, Dec. 13, Pedersen pleaded guilty to one count of animal torture and one drug count; the other charges were dismissed. Pedersen admitted to lighting a kitten on fire. The kitten was later euthanized by veterinarians due to injuries sustained in the fire.

“The Humane Society of Utah spent eight years helping work to make animal torture a felony charge,” said Gene Baierschmidt, HSU executive director. “We’re pleased to know that Pedersen was charged under this law, known as Henry’s Law, and hope Pedersen will spend the full time in jail. We are aware that many cats were tortured and killed. He sought them out, paid money to buy them, and killed them in atrocious ways. Animal torture is highly correlated with other anti-social behavior, and we believe Pedersen needs psychiatric treatment. His behavior is scary; he is a danger to society.”

Thomas said Pedersen had purchased several kittens from people over a period of at least six months. One person sold him seven kittens for $40 each and one for $20. A second person sold Pederson four kittens, one he paid $120 to buy. A third person said they gave him kittens.

As Lunnen read Pedersen’s statement, he felt that Pedersen did not recognize the problem or severity of his actions. He felt that Pedersen had minimalized his problems and was concerned that he is a risk to the public. “It would be more appropriate for the APP (Adult Probation and Parole) to handle his case and perform a psychological evaluation,” said Judge Lunnen.

Utah County prosecutor Julia Thomas said that she “had never seen animal torture with heroin use.” Thomas said Pedersen’s depraved anti-social behavior was highly alarming and asked that he be sentenced according to the statute since he needs time away from the community.

Of the many dead cats found in a neighbor’s yard and Pedersen’s property, Pedersen was charged with the burning of one kitten. Pedersen claimed it was a spur of the moment action after his German Shepherd dog was injured by the kitten. A call to police about the burning kitten was received at 3:12 a.m. Pedersen was seen filling an orange juice container at a nearby gas station before the incident.

Judge Lunnen began the hearing with a statement that he had read letters from Pedersen’s wife and family but not from the public. Lunnen said he glanced at the top of many letters and found that most were emotional and not factual or objective. Utah County prosecutor Julia Thomas noted that the state did want the public’s letters to be read because the community concerns were valid in this case.