By Elisa Black Black-Taylor
Should those convicted of animal cruelty be banned from owning pets? This topic has come to the forefront of the animal cruelty laws currently in place in the U.S. There are now several groups working to add no pet ownership as a stipulation when sentence is passed on someone convicted of animal cruelty.
The U.S. needs to do some serious revision of the animal cruelty laws currently in place. One problem is each state has it’s own set of minimum and maximum fines and/or jail time. Most of the time the abuser gets away with a small fine and no jail time at all. This causes a snowball effect as other abusers see how slack the system is on punishing those who choose to harm animals. It’s sad, but in the U.S. our pets are not only considered property, but also second class citizens in the eyes of the law.
I like the proposal to ban convicted animal abusers from going out and obtaining another pet. It would take a lot for this system to work and the ban to be legally enforced. First off, what would be the punishment for breaking this stipulation? Another small fine? Revoking probation? It has to be something severe enough for the offender to think twice before adopting a cat or dog following a conviction.
This would also be very tough to enforce. The U.S. has a national registry for sex offenders. It’s hard enough for the police departments across the country to keep up with new and current addresses for sex offenders who move around a lot. I know personally that a lot of citizens with warrants out on them manage to stay out of jail until they commit a crime where the police is called out. An officer friend of mine told me the police don’t have time to track down those with warrants, much less adding previous animal abusers to the list of those to keep up with. Many overburdened police departments wait for a habitual offender to do something to get himself arrested and then serve the outstanding warrant at the time of the new arrest. I can’t imagine police officers having the manpower or the hours that would be needed in order to catch someone breaking a pet ownership ban stipulation, should laws such as this be passed.
Another problem would be the ban on pet ownership would likely differ from state to state. Abusers could always move to another state from the state they were charged in and start up with new pets. Since it isn’t likely for all states to pass a law such as this at the same time, an abuser could easily move to a state with no law against pet ownership after an animal cruelty conviction.
I do a lot of my abuse stories based on information I find on the Petabuse.com website. They send me weekly updates on new cases, as well as court decisions made on each case as it becomes available. I’ve noticed from their updates that there are two types of abusers.
- The first type is the abuser who is disturbed mentally or just plain evil and has likely injured people as well as animals. The police would have an easy time keeping up with this type of abuser, as they would likely be called to the residence for domestic violence or public disorderly conduct situations. Abusing animals and abusing people go hand-in-hand for this type of abuser.
- The second type of abuser is usually considered a hoarder. I rescued my cat Huggy Bear (picture above) from a hoarding situation back in the 1990’s where two women got in over their heads in trying to care for 125 cats in one house. I remember stopping at the local supermarket asking for directions to the 4-H club where the cats were being housed for adoption. Someone in the market told me the ladies meant well, but people kept bringing them unwanted cats and they got in way over their heads. Eighty percent of the cats in that case were in good condition. Three had to be euthanised and a number of others treated. Huggy Bear had diarrhea and his vet placed him on a special diet. Otherwise, he was a very affectionate cat who earned the name the shelter employees had given him. He latched on to me the minute I opened the cage door.
The ladies were heavily fined, but that was the extent of their punishment. Should they have been banned from cat ownership for life? Remember, a good many of the cats were literally dumped off in their yard and they took them in. That’s what happens to a lot of those who get into rescue. I have two friends who ended up with a house full of foster kitties when the rescue supposedly sponsoring these cats bailed on them. I worry about those foster mom’s because the only alternative is to take the cats to a shelter if they find themselves unable to care for them. Are there abusers the same as those who inflict intentional pain or neglect on a cat?
The best way to get animal cruelty laws strengthened is to contact both your state senators as well as congressmen. Send real letters. If you do a petition, get actual signatures because they carry more weight. Everyone knows by now that internet petitions, while they may show support on an issue, can be easily faked with false name and made up email address.
How do the readers here feel about a ban on pet ownership to those convicted of animal cruelty? Should all abusers be heaped into the same category, or should the punishment fit the crime. Do you think a law of this nature could realistically be enforced?