The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that juveniles cannot be charged as adults for physically abusing animals because the legal term "bodily injury" only applies to people.
The unanimous decision Monday was in the case of a 14-year-old boy the Supreme Judicial Court said "tortured" a friend's dog causing serious internal injuries.
Prosecutors decided to indict the unnamed teen as a youthful offender, meaning he could face punishment as an adult if convicted.
The court, while saying the charges were "extremely disturbing," ruled the state Legislature did not explicitly include animals in 1996 when it created the youthful offender process for juveniles accused of violent crimes.
The court urged lawmakers to update the law to include animals.
Republican state Sen. Bruce Tarr says he will propose amending the law.