|OPINION PAGE - DEC. 15, 1999 - DANIELSVILLE, GA|
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Time to stop
pandering to professional victims
The Madison County Journal
December 15, 1999
too stiff a penalty for animal cruelty
When I read of a case of animal cruelty, I am deeply saddened and wish that such abuses would not occur. I abhor the blatant misuse of animals, and it is apparent from the recent swell of political activity that many others feel the same way. The political activity I refer to is the lobbying to have our state government make cruelty to animals a felony.
It is easy to sympathize with those who are trying to institute a law making such actions a felony. But then one must step back and reflect on the question, "what is animal cruelty and how would the law affect those charged?"
What is animal cruelty or what kind of acts might be reported to police? An example might be: a pet is starved to death; a person who drowns animals, someone who buys dogs to kill, someone who shoots their neighbor's pet, to list a few. Are these types of people who could be called felons?
Recently, a young person caught an anole from outside and kept it in a jar in the bedroom. The pet anole lacked the bugs it normally consumes to survive and died. The discovery of the anole by the young person's parents was too late to save its life.
The second example is of someone that lives in another state. The town he lives in is being overrun with skunks and the city has given him traps to capture the skunks in the city. The caught skunks are drowned to prevent the person from being sprayed. You might say that the skunks should be let free, but if you take them to other areas and let them free you are doing the skunk population a disservice because this can spread disease throughout the state's skunk community.
The neighbor who buys and kills dogs is from a culture that eats dog like we eat chicken or beef.
The neighbor's dog shot on a ranch by a rancher who has been losing livestock to dogs coming from urban sprawl neighborhoods. Or a young person out in his backyard with a BB gun saw the dog run through his property and promptly popped the dog in its rear to hurry him out of the property. After all, it was his job to clean up the dog dung left by his neighbor's dog on his lawn, and he is a little miffed at having to do that unpleasant task.
You might think that these examples are ridiculous, and would never come up for trial. But life is more ridiculous than this. I remember some years ago reading about a fellow from New York who caught a rat as big as a cat. He called the animal shelter to come and get the rat. While he was waiting, the rat started to escape and while trying to keep the rat in captivity, the man bludgeoned the rat to death. When the people from the animal shelter arrived and saw the dead animal, they pressed charges against him. The charge - animal cruelty.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, an off-duty police officer was jogging in a park that had a leash law. While he was jogging an unleashed dog came after him. After trying to dissuade the dog from attacking, the office pulled his gun and shot the dog. The dog's owner showed up moments later and saw her pet was dead and filed charges against the officer.
Let me repeat, I disdain what I perceive as animal abuse, and feel for the animal when they suffer because of wanton neglect or just plain stupidity on the part of the owner. But, I also believe that charging a person with a felony is not the way to address the problem. Once a person has a felony conviction it follows him/her for the rest of their life. A felony conviction can terminate employment, and by law inhibit a person from selected careers. A felony conviction destroys lives without a viable mechanism to ever purge the offender's police record. A felony conviction for acts against humanity is more easily justified, but not for such a subjective act as cruelty to animals. I think humanity may best be served by leaving the crime as a misdemeanor and give the judge very broad sentencing power so that the incompetent can be sternly warned and the violent can be punished by fines or other means and helped via mandatory counseling.
For those of you who do not think cruelty to animals is not subjective, let me ask you why the proposed law specifically excluded research, hunting and animal sacrifice for religious purposes if the definition of cruelty to animals is so black and white?
So if this law passes, watch for those felons that let their animals ride in the back of an open pickup truck, owners that run into the store leaving their pet in the car, persons dropping off unwanted animals in the countryside, the owner who has too many pets in one pen, the person who hits an animal while driving and runs off, the owner whose pen is too small and the owner who kicked his dog.
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