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Editorial: Get Tough With Animal Abusers
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It's Time to Send a Tough
Message to Animal Abusers
by Craig Mazer
On July 12th a man allegedly roasted a kitten on a grill in Clay County, Missouri.
He, and the group of people with him, found this cruel action amusing, apparently "meowing" as the 7-week-old kitten was slowly cooking alive. The man, as of writing, was charged with felony animal abuse and was in jail on $10,000 bond. The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. But chances are this man, 24-year-old Charles C. Benoit, will get far less as punishment.
A brave woman, Sherry Scott, put herself in harm's way to save the kitten from the grill. Unfortunately, the kitten's injuries were so severe, she had to be put to sleep. As sad as this story is, it is just one of many animal abuse cases. Too many of these cases are treated lightly in court and the true severity is overlooked by a media that often only cares about the "cute factor" of animals on TV.
"Our judicial system reflects a dinosaur-age mentality, and severe punishment is often not proposed by prosecutors, or considered by judges at sentencing. We chalk that up to ignorance, largely, as these officials, in many cases, don't seem to be aware of animal cruelty's grim implications," says Martin Mersereau, cruelty caseworker with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
In December 2001, Kenneth Blasingim of Houston, tore the head off of a friend's parrot during a drunken dispute, throwing the wriggling body out the front door of the friend's house. Blasingim was found guilty earlier this year. But, despite a new bill in Texas making the crime a felony, a district court judge sentenced Blasingim to only four days in jail and a $50 fine.
In April 2002, Jesse Powers, of Toronto, was sentenced to 21 months plus probation. Powers was found guilty of stealing a healthy pet cat, vivisecting it, skinning it and gouging out its eyeball, all while the cat was alive. The sentence sounds harsh, but the reality is it isn't--of the 21 months, three are to be served on weekends and the other 18 are to be served as house arrest. The judge said he gave such a light sentence because he didn't feel Powers meant to torture the cat. The judge said the art student simply wanted to kill, skin and eventually eat the animal. ("Sentences for cat killers spark outrage," The Globe and Mail, April 19, 2002)
In July 2002, Timothy M. Paules Jr., of Colebrookdale Township, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to two years of probation for killing a kitten on Oct. 6, 2001. Young children at Zimmer's Pets store asked Paules to show them a kitten they wanted to buy. According to Paules, he became enraged when the kitten bit his finger and scratched his face. He then threw the cat to the ground and stomped it to death, all of this in front of the children.
While most cases of animal cruelty go under-punished, there are a few examples of our judicial system effectively sentencing people who abuse animals. Robert Pettyjohn, of Clearwater, Florida, was sentenced to five years in jail for severely beating a llama with a golf club and gouging the animal's eye out. He also fatally sodomized and beat the animal's mother when she came to her offspring's rescue. Pettyjohn was also found guilty of hacking a pet goat to death among other crimes against animals. It is because of this long history of crimes that Pettyjohn was finally sentenced to an appropriate amount of jail time.
It's a history of crime that also landed Jeromie L. McCann in prison for 13 years for the dragging death of a dog in west Louisiana last year. It was most likely due to a previous burglary conviction that led the judge to such a harsh sentence. "You are a menace to the public and you will be treated as accordingly," said Judge H.I. Steward. ("Convicted dog-dragger gets 13 years in prison," DeRidder Daily News, Dec. 18, 2001)
However, regardless of past criminal behavior, such violent, cruel actions deserve immediate action. Animal abusers have been shown time and time again to be repeat offenders. Our judicial system needs to recognize this and punish offenders accordingly, so as to prevent a second offense. A strong message must be sent to any person who feels they can dominate, abuse or torture another creature.
You have the power to help make sure that message is sent. Any time you hear of a case of animal cruelty, contact the law enforcement and court officials involved in the case. Let them know that it is of the utmost importance that the evildoer is strongly punished. I highly recommend the sources below for help in both fighting for stronger sentences and assistance in reporting cases of animal cruelty you witness.
Remember, animals can't speak for themselves. We must be the voice for animals in need. It's the least we can do.
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