Back in January, WNDU ran a story of a man who killed his dog with a hammer. The reason the owner gave was that the dog was old and ill. The owner did not appear in court and it’s unclear if this was his second appearance or first appearance. In trying to find some other information, many searches came up empty. However, one interesting point to note is that the charge of animal cruelty against the owner is only a misdemeanor. This is because (from what I can tell) it is against his own animal or rather, his own property. If someone else had killed his dog with a hammer it would be a felony.
Animal cruelty is broadly defined as human infliction of harm onto an animal either by direct abuse or neglect. For example, failure to feed or take care of your pet or farm animals is cruelty. Hitting an animal or participating in dog fighting rings is also cruelty. The troubling part in the Indiana law is that it is not a felony if it is your own pet. If this was another type of violent crime and it was down played to a misdemeanor because it wasn’t your own house or someone you are related to, it would seem ridiculous. Imagine that robbing your mother’s house wouldn’t be a felony because it is your mother’s house as opposed to some stranger’s house. As the legal area of animal law evolves from criminal law, family law, and civil law, finding ways to define animals and domestic pets in the scheme of things takes creative lawyering and can be met with many obstacles. Pets are considered property. They are not humans and cannot be afforded the same rights or Constitutional protections. However, there is a need for a middle ground or a status that elevates animals to being a type of property where laws acknowledge they are living creatures and not the equivalent of a car.
Awareness of the link between animal cruelty and violence towards others has been established with studies in criminal law, feminism, and sociology. Many of the worst serial killers in our history had as young children or young adults tortured and/ or killed animals. Things are changing and many groups like the ASPCA and HSUS are fighting everyday to raise awareness about animal cruelty.
If you see or know of an animal in your area that is being subjected to abuse, there are several things you can do:
- Find the contact information of your local humane shelter and sheriff’s office
- Document the signs of abuse or neglect you witness ex: in the yard for days without food or adequate shelter, saw the dog being kicked on a certain date, horse’s ribs are visible and fur is falling out.
- Call and work with the authorities to help them establish a strong case and procure a warrant if necessary to search the property.
- If it becomes a court case, have the courage to follow up and testify
- Become active in your community and work with the local SPCA as a volunteer
- Use social media like twitter and tumblr to raise awareness of animal welfare issues
- If you can, donate to your favorite animal welfare organization
I know this was a disheartening story. Go. Hug your pet. I know I’m going to go hug mine.