The abuse of innocent animals is a serious offense that can be avoided by the enforcement of policy changes and harsher punishment. The current laws regarding animal cruelty and mistreatment are in dire need of being strengthened. Animals are living creatures that deserve basic rights. They are unable to take the witness stand to defend themselves; therefore it is our responsibility as caring people to do something about it.
According The Legal Dictionary animal cruelty is defined as, “The infliction of physical pain, suffering, or death upon an animal, when not necessary for purposes of training or discipline or (in the case of death) to procure food or to release the animal from incurable suffering, but done wantonly, for mere sport, for the indulgence of a cruel and vindictive temper, or with reckless indifference to its pain. ” This issue is a lot of times overlooked due to the fact that the general public is not aware of the impact animal abusers have on society.
People who abuse animals have been linked to a higher risk of committing violent crimes against humans, such as battery or murder. Due to this reason, and the simple fact that it is just morally wrong, stricter laws have to be put in place to prevent these crimes. The laws currently enforced include probation, a small fine, or some sort of equally inadequate form of punishment that need to be updated. Historically, cruelty towards animals was not seen as a crime in the eyes of the judicial system.
Similar to slavery, animals were viewed as a person’s property; so causing harm to them was equivalent to harming an inanimate object. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that serious action to establish animal cruelty laws were attempted. The very first animal cruelty law to appear in the United States was in Maine in 1821. This law prohibited people from brutally beating horses and cattle. In 1892 New York passed one of the most influential animal cruelty statues in America, and therefore set the example for other states to follow.
This law reads as follows: “Every person who shall maliciously kill, maim or wound any horse, ox or other cattle, or any sheep, belonging to another, or shall maliciously and cruelly beat or torture any such animal, whether belonging to himself or another, shall, upon conviction, be adjudged guilty of a misdemeanor. ” This law was more about the protection of people’s property, were not heavily enforced, and involved minima punishment; but it was a step in the right direction. It was not until 1866 that serious efforts were made to benefit animals.
This is when society’s views began to change and the ideology that animals were property began to shift to people seeing animals as living creatures that deserve rights. Henry Bergh emerged as one of the first animal rights activist in the United States and made a major impact in New York. He was very extremely passionate about animal rights and referred to them as “mute servants of mankind. ” He was influential in the rewriting of anticruelty legislation and the implementation of proper enforcement.
He did this by creating the Declaration of the Rights of Animals and got many influential people to sign it. Despite Bergh’s improvement to animal cruelty legislation, the punishments for those who commit these crimes were still weak. Jail time for abuse towards animals ranged from 1 year to none, and fines averaged $5 to $250 dollars. Currently, animal cruelty laws exist in all 50 states, but they have still not evolved to where they need to be. Judicial misinterpretations lead to weak punishments.
With current legislation the average fine is around $1000 and jail time ranges from 6 months to a year. In some states, the animal is even returned to the abuser. The image above is provided by ALDF (Animal Legal Defense Fund) and ranks each state’s quality of animal abuse laws in 2015. The top ranked state with the best animal protection legislation is Illinois, followed by Oregon, and then Maine, which was ranked number 3. However, our own state of Kentucky was ranked the absolute worst state for animal abuse laws.
These inadequacies include: no mental health evaluation or counseling for offenders, no felony provisions for neglect or abandonment, no statuary authority to allow protective orders to include animals, felony provisions apply only to select animals, and veterinarians lack the ability to report animal mistreatment. These laws need to improve not only because of the suffering these poor animals are enduring, but also for the sake of society. Recent studies have revealed that there is an increased tendency for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward humans.
These animal abusers are 5 times more likely to partake in violent crimes such as assault, rape, and robbery. Criminals rarely commit only a single act of violence so it is important to stop them while possible. Animal cruelty is considered one of the very first warning signs or violent tendencies, so these first time offenders need to be stopped before they move onto further violent crimes. Killing and abusing animas shows control and domination, this is why it has been linked to families with a history of domestic violence.
Abusers will kill, injure, or threaten animals to display their power over victims and to show them what could happen to them. Often, when there is an abused family member, you are likely to find an abused animal. 71% to 83% of women entering domestic violence shelters claim that their partner has also killed or harmed their family pet. Offenders use abuse as a tool to retaliate, intimidate, or manipulate their victim. Often times when the victim has a strong emotional attachment to their pet an abuser will use this to manipulate their victim.
These women many times will stay in the relationship out of fear of losing their pet. Domestic abuse negatively affects the whole family. A child that abuses animals is often a sign that they are likely experiencing abuse at home in some form. Kids are known to display attitudes and behaviors that they learn in there home environments. When a child experience or witnesses abuse at home, whether it is an animal or a family member, it can cause them to adopt the mentality that violence is okay. These children then grow up to allow the same things in their households creating a cycle of abuse that goes unbroken.
Abused children and those exposed to it have a 59% increase in the likelihood of being arrested as a juvenile; a 28% increase in the likelihood of being arrested as an adult; and a 30% increase in the likelihood of committing a violent crime as an adult. On the more extreme end of violence, serial murder has sparked the interest of the media, scholars, and criminal investigators. Accounts of serial killers date back to the early 1800’s and majority of these cases have a commonality, a history of violence towards animals. Jeffery Dahmer, a well-known serial murderer, was known to impale frogs, cats, and dogs heads on sticks.
Albert DeSalvo, also known as the “Boston Strangler,” was responsible for killing 13 women and as an adolescent trapped dogs and cats in boxes and shot arrows through them. Also, the high school students responsible for the Columbine shooting that shot and killed 12 classmates before turning the gun on themselves spoke to classmates of their experiences mutilating animals. Society needs to become aware of the importance of stricter animal cruelty legislation and why these laws need to be heavily enforced. By improving and evolving these regulation and policies to correlate with modern day knowledge, society will benefit greatly.
The mediocre laws that same states display need to be changed so that they protect the rights of animals and limit a repeat of violent offenses. First, mental health evaluations and counseling should be deemed mandatory for even the smallest act of cruelty. States such as North Dakota, Kentucky, and Wyoming do not require that offenders seek mental health evaluations or counseling. The tendency to have the urge to express assertive power and inflict physical harm to another living thing is a mental issue that can only be resolved by seeking professional help.
It is very unlikely that a criminal will commit their offense only once so it is important that they receive the proper help and guidance. Mandating mental health evaluations and counseling will limit the risk of repeat offenders. Secondly, it should be mandatory that abusers be reported. Currently there is no national reporting requirement for animal abuse, so there is no way to track the actual number of abuse cases in the United States. An animal abuser registry system similar to sex abuser registries is an idea that has been around for a long time and should take place.
The first one of its kind was established in New York in 2010 and more of them have followed around the country. Humane societies, women’s shelters, and veterinarians should all be required to report instances of animal abuse. People should feel comfortable reporting when they see or experience abuse and not remain silent. Silence will accomplish nothing. These criminals must be stopped for the betterment of society’s safety and the protection of animals that lack the capability to fight for themselves. Also, Existing penalties need to be replaced with hasher more effective ones.
Currently all animal abuse crimes are seen as a misdemeanor and come with minimal punishment. Instances of extreme cruelty or torture should be upgraded to a felony charge. For instance, Travis Bradford, a twenty-six year old from Mississippi pleads guilty to covering his own pet dog in lighter fluid then proceeded to light her on fire. Due to Mississippi’s lack of adequate laws he faced the measly maximum sentencing of six months in jail OR a $1000 fine. Under Mississippi law the judge also could not make him seek counseling or mandate a psychological evaluation necessary for someone with the lack of morality to commit such an offense.
The judge agreed that Bradford’s misdemeanor should have been bumped up to a felony charge, but the law does not allow him to do that. The judge agreed that this was the worst case of animal cruelty he had seen in his twenty years of being a judge. After Travis Bradford completes his short sentencing it is likely that he will pursue acts of violence again whether it be on animals or humans. It was likely that Bradford’s case was taken so seriously due to the severity of his crimes, but sadly, most animal cruelty cases are not pursued or viewed as worthwhile until those same criminals switch their violent acts to other humans.
Society needs to wake up and realize that these criminals can be stopped before they strike again. Penalties against animal abusers should also be more severe for those who are repeat offenders. If the jai time and fine amount increases each time, offenders are more likely to learn from their first mistake. Also, penalties should be made more severe for those who commit acts of animal abuse in front of minors. Children are very impressionable and are likely to repeat behaviors they experience at home. Penalties should be made harsher to discourage children from being influenced to continue the cycle of abuse.
Animals are something that Americans hold near and dear to their hearts. The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals take in around $300,000,000 each year. This shows the pure love that American people show for animals and they want to see them protected properly. If the people of America, even non animal lovers, knew all of the positive impacts the harsher enforcement of anticruelty laws would have on society I believe that there would be no problem gaining support. This is an issue that all Americans can get behind and really make a difference.
In sum, harsher punishment for crimes committed against animals will have nothing but a positive impact on society. These criminals should be forced to seek counseling, pay heftier fines, and longer imprisonment time. The justice system needs to stray away from the mediocre laws we currently have and turn to a more effective form of punishment. There have been numerous accounts of heinous acts against helpless animals that are unspeakable in nature. These perpetrators believe that they can get away with these horrendous crimes. Please make a difference by supporting the creation of laws to prevent this.