There has been a lot of chatter on the internets this week (already) about animal cruelty -- and the people who participate in it -- and the need to increase the punishment on animal abusers.
And while I think most of the talk is good....the more we talk about solutions to dealing with abusers, the sooner we can end the problem.
Some of the conversation involves a proposed law in California that would create a registery for convicted animal abusers. The law is essentially designed to mirror the laws for sex offenders and allow people to know if people in their neighborhoods have a known track record of abuse. The idea would be to track these people because they often move to other juristictions where people are not aware of their past problems.
This certainly seems like a valid idea...and one that I'm not opposed to. In just one recent case, a Kansas man was charged (he's awaiting trial) on 70 counts of animal cruelty relating to a hoarding bust in Kay County, Oklahoma. The man had a track-record of abuse in the state of Kansas, and had been forbidden from owning dogs in Kansas, but the track record did not follow him to Oklahoma...where more than 100 dogs were found on his property. Two of his former dogs died this past week due to illnesses even under the expert care of the folks at Bad Rap.
Even though the bill seems unlikely to pass because the funding mechanism for the registry is supposed to come from an increased tax on pet food...which too many people oppose, the idea for the bill seems sound -- because certainly habitual abusers cannot be tolerated.
While some have looked at this new bill as an opportunity to talk about the need to strengthen animal cruelty laws, I'm not sure that is the answer either. Animal cruelty is already a felony in every state.
The problem appears to be that judges around the country are not issuing particularly strong sentences for major, purposeful abuse cases....and the number of instances of people getting off for pretty major offenses seems to be growing.
Last week, the Pet Connection folks noted that Fabian Henderson, the man convicted of throwing Oreo off the top of a 6 story building, leading to a couple of broken legs, a broken rib and a dog that was broken enough that it led to her eventual death, got 6 months of probation and a treatment program that will help him to find a job.
Meanwhile, also last week, Bobby Loggins got 30 days in jail in Iowa for punching his 5 month old puppy in the face 30 times -- killing it. Thirty days? For punching a dog in the face?! The judge ruled that because the dog was his own, and not a fancy show dog, that he got off on a light sentence. The particulars of the abuse are pretty gruesome, you can follow the link -- but the case brings Loggins' track record to 26 cases of driving violations, drugs, and now animal torture.
*Strangely, the head of Sioux City Animal Control Cindy Rarrat said that the judge did an "excellent job". Even more ironic, is that according to Sioux City law, someone could get the same penalty as Loggins got for merely owning a 'pit bull' and treating it well.
It seems that maybe more important than pushing for better laws, would be putting pressure on judges to apply harsher sentences to people who are violent and cruely abuse offenders. It is one thing for someone to get put up for abuse because they cannot afford food and a dog is a little malnourished, it is quite another to throw a dog off a 6 story building or literally punch its face in.
It seems its past time to put some pressure on our judges to be sure that violent abusers are punished with more than a slap on the wrist.