WILMINGTON — The violent death of Axel, a five-month-old puppy, and the subsequent arrest of the man who killed the animal, has led to public outcry over the state’s current animal cruelty laws.
The Facebook group “Justice for Axel,” which was created this week to advocate for stricter laws against animal cruelty and tougher sentencing for convicted abusers. The group quickly grew to thousands of members, including Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David.
Axel, a yellow Labrador puppy, was adopted by Tammy Croom in early December from the New Hanover County Animal Control facility. Several weeks later, on Christmas Day, Croom and her family left Axel at their home with Christopher Anthony Simpson, the boyfriend of Croom’s daughter Alyssa. According to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, Simpson is believed to have beat the puppy to death – resulting in the worst injuries ever seen by the veterinarian who examined the dog.
According to Tammy Croom, District Judge Lindsey McKee suggested Simpson could face upwards of 39 months in jail. But according to organizers of Justice for Axel, that’s still indicative of a troubling leniency in how state law treats animal abusers.
Rosey Milazzo, who created the page, has spent years advocating for animals; she also runs a foster program for dogs – Rosey’s Rescues – in Pender County. Milazzo can be found some weekends at pet store adoption drives around Wilmington.
“The feedback has been tremendous. I wasn’t expecting that many people asking to join the group and offer ideas to change the laws here.” — Rosy Milazzo
Milazzo created the page to help spread awareness of animal abuse. She said she didn’t expect the group to grow so quickly.
“The purpose I had in mind when I created the page, was to make people aware of the abuse on a national level, because of the connections I have with the Animal Activist/Advocate/Rescue community all over the U.S. But it has morphed into something bigger,” Milazzo said. “The feedback has been tremendous. I wasn’t expecting that many people asking to join the group and offer ideas to change the laws here.”
Milazzo hopes that awareness of animal abuse in the wake of Axel’s death will help shine a light on the need for tougher laws against all types of animal abuse.
“I want very badly to badly to change the minimum requirements allowed by law in Pender County specifically, because so many animals are left outside chained and after hurricane Matthew, many died when owners evacuated and left their dogs chained,” Milazzo said.
“I would also like to see the laws change in regards to minimum housing requirements here and have an anti-tethering law in place. but one can only hope,” Milazzo added.
Tammy Croom, a co-administrator of the Facebook group, said the loss of Axel “brought home the need for tougher laws” in North Carolina.
“Rosey started the site for me, I’m still having trouble taking everything in and talking about it, but we did want to bring awareness. And we hope that tougher laws – about this kind of thing – when people are convicted, we think those laws need to be much more severe,” Croom said.
The “Justice for Axel” group will hold a protest at Simpson’s next court date, on Thursday, Feb. 8, when he will appear in New Hanover County District Court, located at 316 Princess St., in Room 302 at 9 a.m.
Milazzo said, “Our message is that we will not tolerate animal abuse. We will use our voices for those that are voiceless. We want jail time for convicted animal abusers.”
Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at email@example.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.