Post 4.10 - Penalties under Law

It seems that every day I go onto a news website -- even Facebook, for that matter -- there is a story about animal cruelty. And don't even get me started on those commercials with Wendy Malick and Sarah McLachlan. And the stories are nothing short of horrifying. I have read about puppies being burned alive, animals neglected and beaten, and even one story about decapitation.

Sadly, the penalties in most US jurisdictions are virtually non-existent, yet experts agree that perpetrators likely have serious emotional or psychological problems.

Beyond donating to the local and national charities that work on these issues, it is important that animal lovers of all stripes get involved by engaging their representatives. In 2010, public outcry in North Carolina led to "Susie's Law", which increased the penalties for animal cruelty (defined as "malicious abuse, torture, or killing") to a maximum 10-month jail sentence. The law was named for a now 1-year-old pit bull who survived being beaten and set on fire.

But the fact that an increase to a 10-month jail sentence is considered an improvement is not enough, in my opinion. The first case to be subject to this law concerned a perpetrator who abused three dogs, and the judge assigned the maximum, but consecutively. For all of his crimes, he will be jailed nearly seven years.

But even that doesn't seem enough. It may take baby steps, but we must keep the pressure on.

We share this planet with animals, and we share our lives with domesticated animals. There are countless heroic stories of dogs and cats protecting humans, even humans they don't know. Recently, in Argentina, a dog named China (pronounced cheena) already caring for her own pups saved an abandoned infant. Doctors say if she had not cared for the child until humans showed up, the baby would have died. And there is the famous story from 1996 of a female gorilla saving a three-year-old boy at a zoo in Illinois.

We rely on animals for food, for protection, for companionship, even for finding explosives or drugs. They deserve every effort we can offer to protect them from harm, and even more significant efforts to protect them from outright cruelty. Unfortunately, short of visiting violence on the perpetrators, we have only our legal system upon which to rely.

So call or write your city councilman, your state and federal representatives -- whatever individual you think can help -- and ask them to continue to do more.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

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