The Curious Case Of The Woodington’s Continues

Joyce Coates
County Reporter
The County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed, without further explanation, that on December 1 in Circuit Court the case was dismissed against the Benton County woman arrested last year on 10 felony and two misdemeanor accounts of animal abuse—see Local Woman Charged In Shocking Dog Abuse Case (09/25/2019). 
Sheriff Knox commented at the time that it would be “hard to prove it was done intentionally,” according to strict standards under Missouri Revised Statutes. Section 578.012 states a person commits animal abuse who “intentionally or purposely” kills an animal in a manner not exempted; “purposely or intentionally” causes injury or suffering to an animal; or as an owner or custodian “knowingly fails to provide adequate care which results in substantial harm to the animal.” 
The Benton County case developed after arrests on September 9, 2019 in Texas of the woman’s husband, Steven Clark Woodington, and his partner Mark Anthony Trevino, who were transporting dogs from Texas to Missouri.  A Benton County deputy sheriff and an investigator from the Missouri Humane Society Animal Cruelty division visited the local woman’s properties within days thereafter. Texas authorities had found nearly 300 dogs seriously ill, many near death and some already dead, in “unsanitary and unhealthy conditions.” Many of the dogs were confined in wire cages holding 3 or 4 dogs each, in a warehouse in Los Fresnos, Texas. Cameron County Sheriff said it was the worst case of animal abuse he had witnessed in 50 years.
CBS4 News in Brownsville, Texas described Woodingtons’ “All Accounted For” rescue operation as fake, and warned the public about similar rescue scams. That business name is registered with the Missouri Secretary of State but to another person originally providing financial services. News of the arrests was reported in mainstream media, including the Washington Post, USA Today, and Newsweek, as well as several news outlets in Missouri. Charity Navigator posted a “Moderate Advisory” warning about All Accounted For following the September 24, 2019 article in the Post which remains on its website to date. 
The Cameron County Public Portal shows Steven Woodington’s jury trial on 19 counts of Cruelty to Non-Livestock Animals scheduled for March 8, 2021 at 8 AM. Class A misdemeanors carry potential jail time up to 12 months and fine of up to $4,000 each count. The Portal shows Mark Trevino scheduled for arraignment on 19 counts of Cruelty to Non-Livestock Animals on January 7, 2021 at 8 AM.  Both men were released on bond. Mr. Trevino has a separate jury trial scheduled for February 8, 2021, on a felony child sex abuse case originating in 2011, and was released on $75,000 bond in that matter.
Law enforcement has become more aware of a correlation between animal cruelty and acts of violence against humans. FBI categorizes animal cruelty as a “crime against society,” and began collecting information on animal abuse and cruelty cases on January 1, 2016 for inclusion in its National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). The system, not as comprehensive as intended, has not yet been implemented fully nationwide to meet the target date of January 1, 2021. Consequently, so far, information about the extent of animal cruelty remains incomplete.
Insofar as animal protection legislation, certain animal welfare organizations rank congressional representatives and states. The Humane Society Legislative Fund Scorecard gives Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler 0% rating, noting she took “anti-animal position on a vote.” 
The Animal League Defense Fund scores each state and in 2019, ranked Missouri #35 overall, at the bottom of the “Middle Tier” for animal protection laws. Score is based on provisions below, the first two of which the ALDF considers “pluses,” and the last three “minuses:” 
•Requiring courts to order post-conviction of an animal if the offender is likely to reoffend;
•Imposing sentence enhancements for repeat offenders;
•No requirement for other agencies or departments to report suspected animal cruelty;
•No statutory authority to allow protective orders to include animals;
•Ag-gag law.
For comparison, the ALDF ranks Illinois #1, with three pluses: 
•Felony animal fighting provisions for all species, and animal fighting is a RICO offense
•Other agencies or departments have a duty to report suspected animal cruelty
•Protection orders may include animals; 
and two minuses:
•Post-conviction forfeiture of animals is not mandatory
•No immunity for civilians rescuing animals from unattended vehicles.
Many agree with Sheriff Knox who said last year that the laws need to be changed, and “we need to push our elected officials to work on them.”