They say that no good deed goes unpunished, and a few days ago, it looked like that was going to be very true for Michael Hammons. The army veteran from Athens, Georgia, made the news last week when he smashed the window of a car in the parking lot of a shopping center to rescue a dog inside. Elantra Cunningham, the owner of the dog (and the car), had the police arrest him for criminal trespass.
Fortunately, the story has come to a happy ending. Thanks to the flare-up of publicity around the case, a local Ford dealer offered to replace Cunningham’s window free of charge. In turn, she agreed to drop the charges against Michael Hammons.
Having the incident behind them is probably a relief for all involved. There’s a strong chance that there’s more to Cunningham’s decision than just getting a new windshield: When the story went viral last week, public opinion came down squarely on the side of Hammons. An online petition calling for the D.A. to drop the charges got almost 5,500 signatures in a matter of days. The fact that, rightly or wrongly, Cunningham wound up looking like someone that the Wicked Witch of the West would have found ethically questionable may have had something to do with her decision.
The incident has also inspired the owners of a local pet store to take broader action. Shannon and Mark Martin, who own Pet Supplies Plus, say that there needs to be a change in the law to prevent this kind of situation happening in the future. Currently, Georgia state law allows someone to break into a car to save a child, not an animal. That law needs to change, the Martins told television station WXIA. “Seeing what happened to him struck a very personal chord with Mark and I,” Shannon Martin said.
“The laws need to be changed to protect the animals, not necessarily the people,” Mark Martin said. “We are the voices for the animals; they can’t speak for themselves … Sometimes what’s right is not the law, and that’s why the law news to be addressed.”
In order to make that change, the Martins and other animal advocates are planning to fight for legislation that will allow people to act to save animals in much the same way that Michael Hammons did.
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