"Let the punishment fit the crime"
From Animal Defenders of Westchester (ADOW)

We advocate on all animal protection and exploitation issues, including experimentation, factory farming, rodeos, breeders and traveling animal acts.

"Let the punishment fit the crime"

Letter as published on Westchester Rising
December 14, 2018

A Rochester man intentionally shoots and kills his neighbor’s dog and is sentenced to one year incarceration; a hunter in Ulster County intentionally shoots a dog with an arrow and kills him and gets a six-month sentence; a Brooklyn man lures a kitten, then proudly kicks the animal “like a football” while his friends cheer, and receives one day of community service by the court.

Most recently, a Yonkers woman who choked a dog and broke his teeth was only charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty – with a humane law enforcement officer bemoaning the fact that the criminal history of the perpetrator will impact already weak charges.

And after being tried on felony cruelty aggravated animal cruelty charges, including torturing and underfeeding 10 horses, killing nine of them, a Goshen woman was only sentenced to concurrent sentences that will total merely two years.

The list goes on and on. “Felony cruelty” is defined as conduct that either caused the animal extreme physical pain or was carried out in an especially sadistic or depraved manner.

While researching this astounding lack of legal protection for animals, we discovered a current bill, introduced by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, that would raise the rate of felony convictions simply by removing the current proviso that prevents full charges from being utilized if the animal recovers, citing the case of a neighbor in Staten Island who threw ammonia in a bulldog’s face in an attempt to stop his barking. But because of the way the current felony law is written, the neighbor faced only a lesser charge, due to the dog surviving and recovering.

Rosenthal’s bill would amend the current law with a simple yet necessary change in language; yet this bill isn’t moving in the Senate. Upon research, we were alarmed to discover that the reason the bill isn’t being voted on is that the Senate “wants deinstitutionalization.”

Now, without question, this issue needs to be revisited and some laws changed, downgraded or outright eliminated. Drug laws need revamping – possession of marijuana, certain “victimless” crimes… heck, there are even ridiculous sodomy laws directed at legislating morality, which were enacted 100 years ago, as many laws were. The sale of alcohol was once banned outright and had to be revisited.

Some states still have laws that are outright sexist and limit equality.

The worst part of this, however, is the effort to stop incarceration is only brought up when the crime is against animals, children or the developmentally disabled – those with no political “clout,” yet the most vulnerable beings. We have never heard politicians express a desire to stop incarcerating arsonists, larcenists or murderers, but “community service” for someone who tortures and kills a cat? Absolutely not. Let the punishment fit the crime. Using arbitrary incarceration quotas to avoid that is an unacceptable and offensive excuse.

Someone doesn’t leash their dog? Summons; but the same for someone who puts glue in a dog’s eyes and ears? Our pols don’t think much of developmentally disabled people either. In their zeal for deinstitutionalization they are housing sex offenders in homes for the developmentally disabled – another group who can’t speak for themselves. Neither they nor the animals should be the sacrificial lambs while pols sort this out.

It is apparent that many people still consider cruelty to animals to be a joke, actually doing their misdeeds openly in the public, videotaping them and posting them online, which is likely a throwback to the antiquated thinking of old, where animals were considered no different than blocks of wood, instead of sentient, intelligent, individual beings. In addition, some people need to bully others in order to feel superior themselves.

Unfortunately, the result of lax enforcement on behalf of the animals is more contemptuous treatment. The Brooklyn man who laughingly kicked a cat and received no time at all sneered to animal advocate protesters outside the courthouse that he was “headed home to buy me some good shoes.”

The Times Union reports that only 17 percent of those charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals ends up in felony convictions in NYS – a pathetic statistic as it is. According to the Deterrence Theory on committing crimes, people are most likely to be dissuaded from committing a crime if the punishment is swift, certain and severe; this is usually coupled with rehabilitation.

Tougher sentencing reduces crime, according to several studies. One, conducted by Civitas, concluded that an increase of just one month in the average sentence length for burglaries – from 15.4 to 16.4 months – would reduce burglaries in the following year by 4,800, out of an annual total of 962,700.

If the courts want to add counseling and rehabilitation to sentences, that’s fine, but the Syracuse man who beat his dog to death with a hammer should only get community service? This is a totally unacceptable and frankly shameful state of affairs.

The world is changing. People are aware that animals feel pain just as people do; they have exactly the same pain-producing nervous system we do and have a right to be free of cruelty. Baby animals cry just like human babies. Children, the elderly and the animals are the most easily victimized in society.

A man just got probation for attempting to lure a child for sex – despite the high recidivism rate for pedophiles, coupled by children’s reporting disadvantage.

Our lawmakers and political representatives must do everything in their power to protect them all – none of them, including the animals, should be politicians’ test subjects while they suffer and die at malicious human hands – if for no other reason that statistically those who harm animals also harm people.

Don’t do social experiments on those who can’t defend themselves and have no voice at all, but whose anguish is heartbreakingly real and must be treated seriously.

Kiley Blackman
Founder, Animal Defenders of Westchester

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