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In early October 2011, Byron (pictured above) was scalded by boiling hot water for urinating on the floor by his owner Kyle Voissem , a student (gymnastics) athlete at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Sadly, Byron suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns but did not receive medical treatment until several days later when a neighbor tipped off the Anti-Cruelty Society, who later alerted authorities. Kyle was not arrested with misdemeanor charges until December 13 and his story then spread like wildfire via The Huffington Post, CBS Chicago, Chicago Tribune, and of course social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
This is a photo of Byron during his recovery.
(courtesy of the Anti-Cruelty Society)
While a petition is available online via Change.org to upgrade Kyle’s misdemeanor charge to a felony, since I live only a few blocks away from Kyle, I’ve joined my community in fighting for UIC to take action, especially since Kyle is a student athlete. Not only am I a taxpayer for this public university but I’m also part of the UIC community as a non-student because I live (along with Kyle) just across the street from campus.
The UIC/Pilsen neighborhood is a community of animal lovers. Of course, there’s no way to monitor what happens behind closed doors but when you hear a neighbor commits animal cruelty (or cruelty to any other) and makes headline news then it definitely hits home. While students come and go, the true residents of UIC/Pilsen stay for many years creating a family-friendly, animal-loving neighborhood. Therefore, I urge you to please take a stand with us. If our justice system does not charge Kyle with a felony then we can jeopardize his college education, a privilege that so many take for granted.
Please contact the following faculty and athletic department members and let them know that his behavior will not be tolerated. Also included in the list are the IL State’s Attorney and President of the NCAA. Although the NCAA does not oversee the UIC gymnastics team, UIC is still a proud member and hopefully the NCAA does not want their name included in Byron’s story and/or Kyle’s cruelty charges.
Who to contact:
Director, Illinois State’s Attorney: Patrick Delfino at firstname.lastname@example.org
UIC Vice President for Academic Affairs: Mrinalini Chaffa Rao at email@example.com
UIC Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs: Lon Seth Kaufman at firstname.lastname@example.org
UIC Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs/Dean of Students: Linda Deanna at email@example.com
UIC Assistant Dean of Student Conduct: J. Malcolm Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
UIC Director of Athletics: James W. Schmidt at email@example.com
UIC Men’s Gymnastics Head Coach: Charles Arthur Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org
National Collegiate Athletic Association President: Mark Emmett at email@example.com
While Byron recovered successfully and was able to be re-homed, Kyle’s court date is set for 9am on January 26, 2012 at 3150 W. Flournoy, Rm #43-2 in Chicago*. Both animal-lovers and the UIC/Pilsen community hope to get Byron’s story nationwide attention until then.
In the meantime, please see the links below regarding more about Byron and his journey:
* Court date info subject to change. This post will be frequently updated as more details emerge *
UPDATE AS OF JANUARY 27, 2012:
Yesterday on January 26, Kyle Voissem’s original misdemeanor charge for animal cruelty was formally and officially upgraded to a felony charge for aggravated cruelty. His bond was set at $100,000 and felony court date is February 2.
I would like to extend thank yous to everyone who shared this story and signed the petition on Change.org. All the attention this cruelty case received definitely did not go unnoticed in the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office. Not only is this justice for Byron but also for ALL animals abused, as well as humans. When it comes to cruelty towards an animal, child, or any other being, the justice system does not discriminate. Cruelty is cruelty. Even a stellar college athlete from the middle of nowhere Wisconsin has the capabilities of a felon. As citizens, it is our moral obligation and civic duty to NOT allow this behavior to be ignored. It is too easy to just turn your shoulder and walk away. But it takes strength and courage to physically take action and make sure justice is served.
The greatest things about animals are that they don’t have egos, don’t experience self-pity, and don’t dwell on the past. They are instead resilient, forgiving, and loving companions if treated the same by humans. Therefore, it is only sweet justice that Byron is now happy and healthy with his new family while Kyle has a very long and difficult road ahead of him…in prison.
Other than 911, here are tips from the ASPCA to report online cruelty
Please continue to share this story because even though Kyle was suspended from the UIC Athletic Department, he is still listed as an active student at UIC, a public, tax-payer funded university. It would be in UIC’s best interest to dismiss him and set an example. If a student is aware that his/her education can easily be taken away if they commit a felony then it would make sense that a student would be LESS likely to commit a felony, right? If a student has obvious anger management issues that result in abusive, cruel behavior then s/he is more likely to react again, if not addressed. UIC has the chance to prevent campus violence therefore it would be wise to address the issue now. Kyle does indeed have a right to a college education but then it should be privately funded with therapy.
UPDATE AS OF FEBRUARY 2ND, 2012
Today was Kyle Voissem’s preliminary hearing for the felony charge of 1 count of aggravated cruelty, where he denied pouring hot water on Byron. He claims he only splashed or flicked the hot water. Based on the testimony of the arresting officer, in mid-October the officers showed up at Kyle’s apartment a few times but Kyle was never home. On October 18 officers arrived when Kyle was finally home. It is speculated that Kyle already knew at this point the officers were looking for him and had put a shirt on Byron to hide the wounds. Instead of the previous 1 count of aggravated cruelty, there are now 2 counts of aggravated cruelty added to the felony charge because Kyle denied vet care. Kyle’s next court date is set for February 28 at 2650 S. California, Chicago IL. Time and Judge TBD.