Celebrities and Animal Abuse

i March 7, 2008

With the ink barely dry on Michael Vick’s conviction for cruelty to the pit bulls he abused and killed, there comes a new story of how another celebrity with malice aforethought murdered a helpless animal.

Golfer John Henry “Tripp” Isenhour, III, was engaged in videotaping a TV show called “Shoot Like a Pro” at his home course, Grand Cypress Golf Club, in Florida.

Apparently a red-shouldered hawk, protected as a migratory species, was making sounds that Isenhour thought was interfering with the videotaping.

So after several unsuccessful attempts to hit the hawk by driving golf balls at him, Isenhour finally struck the bird. The defenseless hawk fell to the ground bleeding from both nostrils, and died.

Adding to his gratuitous cruelty, Isenhour now lies that he was only trying to scare the bird–despite eyewitness testimony that after a few missed shots Isenhour said “I’ll get him now.” (We’ll see whether he is stupid enough to lie to the prosecutors and court.)

To the credit of the local authorities, Isenhour has been charged in Orlando with cruelty to animals and killing a migratory bird. Each is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of 14 months in jail and $1,500 in fines.

There are at least five points that need to be made.

First, like Vick, Isenhour should be punished. It would be scandalous for him to walk away unscathed from his gratuitous, mindless act of cruelty. He should do some jail time, because a small fine would be of no consequence to him. If the prosecutor and judge don’t have the stomach for that, then a short house arrest and a couple hundred hours of community service at an avian sanctuary would be acceptable.

Second, Isenhour’s club should ask itself if it wants to be the golf home of a coward who so disvalued the life of a beautiful creature which posed no threat to him.

Third, there is no room in this affair for mealy-mouth statements like the one attributed by the Associated Press to Dale Bartlett, deputy manager for animal cruelty issues of the Humane Society of the United States, who is reported as saying that “Because of the high profile of this case, the PGA needs to take steps to address its interest and to make it clear that they don’t condone animal cruelty.” The PGA must do much more than that, beginning with ascertaining whether their regulations provide some way to discipline Isenhour if he is convicted–by trial or plea–of committing a crime.

Fourth, golf enthusiasts should shun Tripp Isenhour, his public appearances, and any products he shills for.

Fifth, the general public should let Isenhour know, perhaps by mail to his club, that it is fed up with celebrities whose general “I’m above the law”mindset allows them to destroy animals on a whim. Please send letters to:

Grand Cypress Golf Club
One North Jacaranda
Orlando, FL 32826