The time has come to get tough on serious animal abusers by charging them with felonies and giving them the harsh prison sentences they deserve. I never enjoy blogging about animal abuse, any more than I enjoy blogging about human abuse, but the shocking case of police finding 160 dead animals in a barn in Deer Park, Washington yesterday compels me to do so yet again. The barn contained 200 animals locked in cages, most of them dead. The ones who were still alive were desperate for food and water. It was an absolutely appalling scene. (Source)
In Garden City, New York, a mother was recently charged with forcing her children to torture pets. When the authorities raided her house, they found five dogs and a cat in cages, living in their own pee and shit. In the backyard, the SPCA made an even more gruesome discovery: 42 animals buried, many with duct tape over their mouths. The woman has six daughters, ranging in age from 18 months to 13 years. Her 21-year-old son who turned her in described her house as a "concentration camp for animals." (Source)
There are other similar cases, but, to be honest, it would depress me too much to list them all here.
Suffice it to say that it has only been since the 1990s that serial killers who target animals have actually been charged with felonies. Before the 1990s, such killers were usually let free, or - at the very worst - they were charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty. There are several states that still do not even have felony animal abuse laws (for a list of which states have them and when they adopted such laws, see here). Some would say these sadists just need good counseling. But what they really need are long jail sentences and huge fines if there is any hope of sending out a message that this sort of behavior is absolutely unacceptable.
Note: I'm singling out the United States only because I have studied the society more carefully as an American historian and newspaper columnist who often comments on American affairs. Here in Canada, the animal abuse laws are a little tougher, but not much. (Click here for a history of animal abuse laws in Canada.) Four years ago, there was an excellent entry on the Toronto Humane Society's blog (dated June 9, 2006), that offered the following observations:
Canada's current anti-cruelty laws for animals are totally inadequate, allowing those who neglect and abuse animals to repeat their crimes again and again with minimal consequences. For six years, Canada's government has stalled on the passage of tougher animal cruelty sentences.
The main reason Canada remains largely ineffective in preventing animal cruelty is the lack of tough laws and large fines in cases of cruelty and neglect. The current maximum fine for animal cruelty is $2,000 and a possible two-year ban on animal ownership. The laws have not been updated in more than 100 years. Meanwhile, cruelty to animals continues....Canadians want to protect animals
Ninety-three percent of Canadians polled support tougher animal cruelty legislation including law enforcement officers, lawyers, researchers, farmers, hunters and animal welfare organizations.