Are those who commit animal cruelty against dogs punished more harshly? There appears to be inequality in punishing people who abuse cats and dogs. It seems dog abusers are punished more severely. This question has been playing in my head since the Julianne Westberry case hit the online news media. Remember several weeks ago when the shelter caring for the cats that were captured on a farm tied to the Westberry case initially only gave the cats a mere weekend to find another place to go. Would dogs have been allowed longer? The alternative for the cats, we were all afraid, would’ve been euthanasia.
Last summer, more than 150 dogs were seized in a puppy mill raid in Anderson County, South Carolina. This is the same county where Julianne Westberry allowed 57 cats to die in her Belton home. This article details how the community banded together to help these dogs.
To make a long story short, Anderson County PAWS opened the old shelter to handle the overflow. The National Guard was called in to help with the rescue effort because of no power or water at the old facility. More than 30 members of the National Guard, including members of the 2-263rd Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Battalion, 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC), S.C. National Guard, the State Provost Marshal and the State Guard also assisted. A total of 28 agencies were involved to help care for the dogs.
This is one reason everyone in the cat community was fit to be tied when the farm survivors were given such a short time in which to find rescue. The National Guard didn’t swoop in to help, and Westberry was charged with ONE count of ill treatment of animals and ONE count of torture. We don’t even want to go there on that issue.
On July 15, only 150 miles and one state from Westberry, a puppy mill bust ended with the rescue of 357 dogs being seized from Heavenly Kennels off the Cummings highway in Cherokee County, Georgia. Joy Wise, owner of Heavenly Kennels, was another “animal rescuer” who didn’t send out any signals anything was amiss. Operating since 2009, and last inspected in July 2013, Joy has now been charged with 264 counts of animal cruelty. The dogs were living in cramped crates with feces surrounding many of them.
I’m as big a dog lover as I am a cat lover, but I have to ask the question. Is this a state law issue or a dog versus cat issue? These dogs are still alive, and Wise is facing charges, apparently for each dog in a bad condition. Westberry had 57 DEAD cats, with evidence the living cats had been forced to eat on the dead in order to survive. For this, she was charged with ONE crime. Why?
Is a cats life not as important as a dogs life, when it comes right down to it? To judge those who abuse dogs by a different standard than those who abuse cats places the impression that dogs are valued more than cats. Perhaps it’s just South Carolina’s backward animal cruelty laws, which are among the worst in the nation. Maybe I just expect to see a uniformity in the way the laws are applied. It’s just not happening-yet.
Roger Owens, the man who dragged, a dog, Andra Grace behind his pickup truck in late 2013 was sentenced July 15 to 10.5 years in prison. For ONE dog. Of course, a lot of his sentence included habitual tickets and such. Still, it screams out to cat lovers that a dog is worth more. Would as much of a sentence have been handed down if Andra Grace had been a cat.
Regardless, the Greenville community showed up to be sure Owens got the maximum sentence for his crime. That sent a message to abusers, and to lawmakers, that South Carolina is fed up with laws that were put on the books back in the stone age.
I’m sorry if I’m rambling here, but if we must live by animal abuse laws, shouldn’t those laws be the same for cats as well as dogs? Please leave a comment with your thoughts. Am I imagining this, or is there really a prejudice between the two?