Earlier today, the Iowa Court of Appeals overruled that conviction and acquitted him of this charge in a 2-1 decision. They ruled that prosecutors failed to show enough evidence of depravity when Meerdink beat his puppy to death:
Chief Judge Larry Eisenhauer said prosecutors must prove the defendant acted with "depraved" or "sadistic" intent to support an animal torture conviction. He said that standard wasn't met because no one witnessed the killing, it's unclear how many times the dog was struck and Meerdink didn't appear to be happy or eager before and after the killing. What's more, Meerdink killed the dog after it demonstrated aggressive behavior that was getting worse, including biting a 9-year-old child, Eisenhauer wrote in a ruling joined by Judge Nancy Tabor...I get that people don't like dealing with puppies who struggle with biting. I also get that people get upset with puppies bite their kids... even puppy bites. And it is terribly frustrating to house train one's dog.
Meerdink was living with his girlfriend in 2011, and she bought him the puppy. The girlfriend, Jamie Holladay, testified that the puppy had accidents in the home because of a weak stomach, often jumped on people, had bitten her and her three sons, and wasn't responding to coaching.
Holladay said she was running an errand when Meerdink called to ask where the Lysol spray was because the dog had an accident. When she returned, Meerdink walked out of the house with the dog under his arm. He came back minutes later carrying a baseball bat, saying the animal was dead.
But there are animal shelters. There is re-homing. There is euthanasia with the help of a veterinarian, in worst case scenarios. You don't bash in the puppy's head with a bat. There is always a better choice.
Meerdink has been paroled since April 2013. As noted above, he has been retroactively acquitted of the earlier charge and the conviction stricken from his criminal record.
Updated on 07/27/13: I learned yesterday that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller asked the Iowa Supreme Court this past Thursday to reinstate Zachary Meerdink's animal torture conviction and to clarify Iowa's animal torture law:
Miller's brief says the Court of Appeals erred last month in a 2-1 ruling that concluded Meerdink didn't act with "depraved intent" when he killed the 7-month-old Boston terrier outside a Davenport apartment and suggested the killing was justified. Miller says the court's definition of depraved intent has created uncertainty for law enforcement and should be changed.