Animal Writes
From 28 August 2005 Issue

Animal Cruelty In America
By Share Bond - [email protected]

Animal cruelty is a very serious crime, and individuals who perpetrate heinous acts of cruelty should not go unpunished or unrecognized by the criminal justice system. There is a well-established link between animal cruelty and human violence, and exhibitions of animal cruelty are indicators of a loss in empathy in individuals, according to an overwhelming body of sociological and scientific research. In one study of American households, it was determined that animals are abused in 88% of families in which children are abused (DeViney, Dickert, Lockwood, 1983). In a separate study, researchers found that 62% of women who were battered indicated their children had witnessed animal abuse (Ascione, Weber, 1997). A survey of sexual homicide perpetrators revealed that 36% of the offenders had abused animals in childhood, 46% in adolescence, and 36% in adulthood (Ressler, Burgess, Douglas, 1988).

Animal cruelty is a problem all over the world, but in America as well. In the past few years, several incidents involving extreme animal cruelty have come to light: horses brutally stabbed and slashed, a kitten thrown from a moving truck, a dog strangled and hung from a mailbox, a cat dropped from an overpass through the windshield of a moving car, and puppies doused with gasoline and set on fire, as well as cruelty to wild animals.

While a misdemeanor classification may be appropriate for certain lesser offenses of neglect or mistreatment, a "misdemeanor-only" law does not provide a sufficient deterrent or penalty for the more extreme acts of cruelty. In Arkansas, a Class A misdemeanor only allows a maximum of one year of detention or court supervision. Twelve months does not provide the courts or mental health professionals enough time to evaluate and treat a violent perpetrator whose already extreme behavior could ultimately take a much more dangerous and tragic turn toward fellow human beings.

Felony cruelty provisions for the most severe forms of animal abuse have already been adopted in 36 states. The Arkansas state legislature has had several opportunities to enact felony cruelty legislation, most recently in the 1999 and 2001 sessions. But each time these measures were introduced, corporate agriculture groups unleashed massive lobbying campaigns based on fear and misinformation at the Capitol, and the bills ultimately went down in defeat. The Arkansas Animal Cruelty Act will allow the people of Arkansas to decide whether they want strong anti-cruelty laws.

We not only must constantly upgrade our animal cruelty statutes, but make sure that they are enforced! We need more team players in Animal Control/Humane Society departments, more media attention and animal rights/protection investigations. Changing the law alone will not stop the offenses.

We need to clean up our act in America before we can hope to change animal cruelty in other countries!! Hopefully, they will follow our lead.

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