Punishing animal abusers: Inequality between dogs and cats

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.

Dog lying on top of cat
Several of my friends have asked me to do an article on whether dogs receive preferential treatment compared to cats. This holds true in puppy mill raids I’ve kept up with over the past few years. Anytime a puppy mill bust has taken place, shelters involved tend to go all out to find the dogs the fastest way out of the shelter possible.

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?


Sources: Examiner Articles: 1 and 2.

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Punishing animal abusers: Inequality between dogs and cats — 36 Comments

  1. Yes I’m rambling here. Someone else noticed this before I did and I thought it a good topic. In a slightly related topic I’ve been told dogs are networked and rescued more often than cats.

  2. What about the l labeling of so many as “ferals” – this done while they are terrified and traumatized in shelters?

      • Michael a word of advice to people with lost cats. Check the feral room at the shelter. Greenville has had several outdoor cats located in there and many people don’t think to check it.

  3. Cats seem to be second class citizens all round to dogs, but why should they?
    Not only abusers getting lighter sentences, if any sentence at all, but vets seem more concerned about dogs than cats, we’ve seen the much larger percentage of vets visits for dogs than cats.
    Of course there’s declawing too, the moment the question is asked ‘Can dogs be declawed?’ there’s an outcry ‘You can’t declaw dogs, it would be too painful’ ‘Declaw a dog? No way, yes you can declaw a cat but not a dog’ ‘How cruel it would be to declaw a dog’
    So they are saying it’s cruel to do that to a dog, but not to a cat, even though cats feel as much pain as dogs!
    Some say ‘dogs claws don’t cause damage like cats claws do’
    A load of rubbish, their claws can cause much more damage! My own late mother had 4 cats whose claws never once harmed her but a neighbour’s dog tore the skin off her arm!
    It’s time people started to respect cats as much as dogs, both species are domestic pets and both should have equal rights in every way.

    • Cats are discriminated against. Abusers get off more lightly, they are taken to the vet less often and more are euthanised than dogs by quite a margin. This is because they are more independent and devalued more because they are killed more (legally).

  4. One thing I notice is that a woman with several cats is automatically called a “crazy cat lady,” which has a negative connotation. But you never hear about a “crazy dog lady.” And dogs kill birds outside too, but free-roaming and feral cats are the only ones maligned for killing birds. It’s nature, bigger things kill smaller things. The circle of life.

  5. I think it is terrible to discriminate between dogs and cats, cats are extremely intelligent & protective.

  6. There is absolutely no question that cats have less value in our society as compared to dogs. One of the factors that may contribute to this is that the majority of people seem to make more of a connection with dogs than cats. Dogs have long been viewed as “man’s best friend.” Although the opposite is true for me (I am a cat enthusiast), it appears that most people that want to rescue an animal are far more interested in dogs. It is much harder to find homes for homeless cats. Perhaps it is that cats in general (unlike dogs) are viewed as not as interactive with their human counterparts. There is a perception that cats are often independent and aloof whereas dogs thrive on human companionship. Even though I disagree with this perception, I think that society as a whole has long viewed dogs as companion animals whereas cats are more or less disconnected in a sense. Now this is not at all my view, but it is what I perceive to have become the norm in our society. For myself, I much prefer cats to dogs. My cats (all 12 of them) are very much a part of my life. I have a close connection with them and they seem to appreciate my company. They follow me around and want my attention just as much as any dog. Unfortunately, I think that the devaluing of the domestic cat will not change until cat lovers unite and insist that laws apply equally to dogs and cats.

        • You want laws for cats like they have for dogs? Great! Then you will be held legally accountable for your actions and the actions of your cats. ALL cats will be kept on the owners properties, just like for dogs — or destroyed, just like they do for free-roaming dogs. You can’t have protection for cats like there is for dogs if you’re not willing to accept the ADULT responsibility for them. Until you do, we just destroy all your free-roaming cats for you. Quicker and faster than creating any new laws. It’s already legal to destroy any cat on your own property. And still you haven’t learned from that. Really, did your parents teach you NOTHING about the care-taking responsibilities when given a pet? How many more of your cats must I shoot & bury for you before you learn?

          • Woody, I don’t believe it but there are no swear words in your comment and no insults. Are feeling alright?

            I disagree as usual. You comment is not on topic. You always stray from the topic to rant about your pet hates.

          • Woody I wish someone would shoot and bury YOU, you are so predictable that it’s getting very boring…yawnnnnnn……change your record do!

          • Jimbo, the laws you write about in your comment are the same for dogs and cats.
            But, that’s not the plot here.
            If you can’t figure out the topic, I’ll explain it to you, as I have before.

  7. One more thing that bothers me is that why are certain breeds valued over others. How many black cats or plain tabbies are left to die in shelters while adoption wars break out over siamese and persian breeds?

    • Its really sad when this happens. As all Cats are the same deep down. Thats why i Prefer to Have domestic cats above anything else. As its only their Skin color and coat. Each Cat has differently personality. I wish there wasn’t so much Pedigree types out there. When there’s alot in shelter.

    • You are right Ruth, all cats are equally as beautiful and deserving of a loving home. Breeders should stop breeding and selling cats while so many ‘ordinary’ cats are being killed in Shelters for lack of homes.

  8. Simple answer? Only the insane want and like cats. And there are far more many sane than insane people. You have bred cats to over-saturation for many decades. Be they for sale or for your feral colonies. Cats are now considered nothing more than garbage vermin by the vast majority of people on earth. Why do you think that you can’t find any homes for the unwanted masses of them? Hint: NOBODY WANTS THEM ANYMORE. The fashion of liking and owning cats has run its course. If you find out that someone you know likes cats, they are ostracized from your contacts, they are not worth knowing. Further adding to their social-isolation and eventual “crazy cat lady” status in any community.

    You have only yourselves to blame.

    • You are WRONG Woody, cats are not considered as nothing more than garbage vermin by the vast majority of people on earth, just the opposite in fact as more people have pet cats than ever before.
      Get your facts right and hear this, just because YOU hate cats you can’t make everyone else hate them too.
      You’ve tried and failed so now buzz off…………….

      • It’s NOT that more people have pet cats than ever before. It’s that cat-hoarders have more pet cats than ever before. Why do you think the reports of mummified cats found layers deep in cat-hoarders’ “rescues” are reported almost daily now? (The homes then demolished because it’s the only way to get rid of the toxic environment, and all their cats usually end-up destroyed.)

        30 or more vermin cats to a single house is not uncommon — BECAUSE NOBODY ELSE WANTS THEM ANYMORE.

        Having more than 1 or 2 cats now flags you as a potential cat-hoarder with serious mental issues.

        • Woody I wish you’d do some research instead of ranting your rubbish, you just look foolish. If I have serious mental issues for having 2 cats and I am a potential cat hoarder then yes the moon IS made of green cheese after all lol

    • Oh Woody..I’d take my ‘insanity’ medication, but then you wouldn’t be half as entertaining and I would lose the ability to write then what would you do with all this spare time…

  9. Animal cruelty laws for companion animals must be applied the same in the legal system. It is up to us who believe that torture and inhumane treatment is the same in both dogs and cats to show we believe it. It seems people ban together more on one vs the other. It is time WE make the change in the treatment of our feline friends. The same anti cruelty laws should apply to any animal, no matter the species. The hurt and the pain of torture and acts of cruelty is felt by that animal all the same. If we roll over and just “let” this injustice carry out then WE have let them down.

    • We have made changes in the UK, cats are protected by our Pet Welfare Act, now we are battling for even more protection for them and we will get it one day too.
      It took us many years to get hunting with dogs banned but people power and persistence won in the end.
      You are so right, we must not just roll over and let any injustice to animals carry on.

  10. Cats are not given the same compassion,consideration,or respect by people or the law.I personally have seen this over and over again here in Marion County,Florida.I won’t get into it as it infuriates me.There appears to be a war on cats and the cats do not stand a chance.I have had too many incidents with dogs attacking my children or ferals in the yard and no justice done.And to make it worse,Animal Control,some years ago,made laws concerning cats that are not contained. Cats can be poisoned,shot,or trapped and killed if on another person’s property.They are an intrusive species is the reasonning.But a dog or dogs roaming in a pack are not to be touched as it would be cruelty.Several times I have called about dog issues,I was told,”Is it necessary to go outside,is anyone bleeding?” And the real clincher,”If you can catch the dog we will pick it up.” Isn’t that their job? Dogs are an intrusive species also. Wolves were here,not dogs.But only cats are maligned.

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