It is fairly obvious to even the casual observer, who surfs the Internet, that the American public are passionate about seeing justice done when animal cruelty and abuse is perpetrated by criminals. All 50 states in America have felony animal cruelty provisions in their legislation. This reflects the views of the public because the role of legislators is to do just that.
However, there is a breakdown in the chain of events from the commitment of the crime of animal cruelty to successful prosecution and sentencing. There is insufficient enforcement.
It has been suggested by a former prosecutor, Calley Gerber of the Gerber Animal Law Centre in North Carolina that there are three main reasons why there is inadequate prosecution of animal cruelty:
- lack of resources
- lack of knowledge, and
I, for one, would suggest that the last in the above list is the most important reason. The next most important reason is the one above it, “lack of knowledge”. We might reword that as, “lack of education”.
There is no good reason for this as it is common knowledge that animal cruelty is a marker for progressing to other forms of criminal behaviour, particularly violence against people. Surely this should motivate prosecutors to focus more seriously on animal abuse cases? In fact, there is an argument that if law enforcement and prosecutors prioritised animal cruelty cases it would reduce other forms of criminality thereby benefiting both the community and ease the burden upon law enforcement agencies.
Just recently, in the Kristen Lindsey case, a group of passionate cat and animal lovers attended a grand jury in an effort to motivate the authorities to seek justice for the cat that Miss Lindsey allegedly so horrifically killed. Why are these good people attending hearings in the form of a protest in an effort to ensure that justice is done? There should be no need for these protests if the authorities were doing their job properly. They don’t trust the law enforcement.
The president of Alley Cat Allies, Becky Robinson, referred to another cat cruelty case which occurred in the state of Texas. There was an intense public outcry after two kittens were found severely mutilated. One of the kittens was euthanised and the other is recovering after intensive veterinary treatment. The public outcry was not transformed into tangible action by law enforcement. There seems to be a disconnect between what the public desires and what law enforcement wishes to deliver.
In another case which occurred in Walton County, Florida an outdoor cat named, MommaCat was shot twice by a neighbour of two good people who begged the man to not shoot the cat. These good people knew this cat. They had cared for this cat yet they saw her being callously and mercilessly shot. This was a cut and dried case of animal abuse and cruelty, fully witnessed. Although the police responded, they refused to take action.
Alley cat Allies and the public put pressure on the police department who eventually instigated an investigation but at the end of the day they did not charge the man who shot MommaCat. That, to me, seems very typical of the attitude of a significant percentage of police officers in America. But let’s be clear, it need not necessarily be America; it could be in the UK or somewhere in continental Europe. It is about individual police officers and their attitude towards animal cruelty, in my honest opinion and then about the attitude of the prosecuting services. I am not trying to be nasty to police officers. It is a culture thing. Perhaps they see animal crimes as low priority but there is lack of empathy with public opinion.
The picture is not entirely bleek, we are told by Becky Robinson. The FBI have begun tracking animal cruelty cases under a programme named Uniform Crime Reporting. They are doing this because they recognise, as the public does, that animal cruelty cases often lead to something far worse.
The big question remains though whether there is the will in law enforcement to prosecute animal cruelty cases. I’d like to add a fourth reason why the police sometimes fail to adequately investigate or even see animal cruelty as a proper crime. It’s about attitude. The typical police officer can tend to be slightly macho in personality. Such a personality is not conducive to a sympathetic approach to the welfare of animals.