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From 1 June 2003 Issue

Opinion: We Need Some New State Laws
re: animal abuse/neglect cases

By Jim Willis - The Tiergarten Sanctuary Trust
jwillis@bellatlantic.net
www.crean.com/jimwillis 

Whenever we read or watch news reports about mass seizures of animals found in horrific conditions, whether they are seized from a breeder or a "collector," the news report usually concludes to the effect that the subject animals cannot be placed in homes because they are "evidence." Depending on the situation and state laws and the controlling humane/legal authority, the animals can sometimes be placed in foster care. Some of those animals spend a year or more in legal purgatory. Not even the finest shelter in the country can equate their level of care with responsible care and individual attention for the animal in a private home. Often that individual attention is critical to the healing of the animal.

We need to change that because it is not "logical" and it is not in the best interest of the animals who have often suffered horrific abuse and neglect. We have court cases where decades-old DNA evidence can free a convict from death row, or put someone behind bars who has remained free for years - but we have to warehouse animals as "evidence" to the great detriment of underfunded animal shelters and volunteers who must care for the animals for the convenience of the court system and the innocent-until-proven-guilty animal abusers/neglecters. The animals are not inanimate objects who can be stuck in an evidence locker, or misfiled, while we wait to heal them.

While the courts sometimes let the offenders off with a slap on the wrist, that is changing for the most part. Rarely are animals who were evidently abused or neglected returned to their previous "owner." We have all the technology and vetmed expertise available to us to document the condition of the animals at the time of seizure - including photographs, videos, and expert opinions of any conceivable number of veterinarians and legal/humane authorities, and the written testimony of witnesses. The animals do not deserve, in view of all they've been
through, to wait for human and legal machinations when they could already be recovering and thriving in permanent homes or loving fostercare.

America's animal welfare system and humane officers do not deserve to have their time and resources exhausted at the "pleasure" of the court system. America's judges need to start "throwing the book" at those who would harm animals. Judges need to start levying million dollar fines and life imprisonment for the abusers of animals, and then I suspect the rest of us won't have to jump through hoops trying to figure out how to provide basic care for "evidence," until we have the opportunity to do better by the animals who have already suffered enough.

Go on to Against The Odds
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