Animal cruelty should carry harsher penalties

Over the past year or so, there seems to have been an influx of news stories focused on the abuse of animals.

Perhaps this growth has been spurred on by the dogfighting escapades of disgraced Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, or perhaps there has simply been an increase in the abuse of animals.

One thing is known for certain. The media has in fact given more attention to injustices perpetrated on animals, whether they were pets or animals being led to slaughter.

The most recent incident to appear on various newscasts was that in which a Marine was taped throwing a puppy off a steep cliff in Hawaii.

A few weeks prior to the surfacing of this disturbing story, on Feb.17, the Food and Drug Administration recalled 143 million pounds of meat because of serious violations that occurred at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Co. in California.

In short, the plant violated regulations by systematically torturing cattle that were unable to stand, and in turn endangered millions of children who consumed this contaminated meat through school lunch programs. What do these two recent stories have in common? They involve the appalling abuse of animals.

Stories such as these seem to be commonplace among weekly news programs. The questions that have to be asked are why is this happening and what needs to be done about it?

There seems to be a feeling among the perpetrators of these acts that the torture and killing of animals are acceptable behaviors in our society.

Sadly enough, it would seem that their feeling is not very far from the truth.

Only within the last 10 years have the majority of states in this country instituted felony-level laws for the abuse of animals. In New Jersey, the maximum prison sentence for animal abuse is five years, and many receive stiff fines, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Essentially, if you kill somebody’s pet, you are released back into society in a few short years. But if you kill a human, you sit in jail for the rest of your life. To bring this into perspective, one person may or may not spend a few short years in prison for the murder of a family pet, while a different person convicted of a non-violent crime for the third time in California may spend the rest of their life in prison.

The above comparison demonstrates that there is something very wrong with the priorities, and above all, the laws of the society in which we live. What I am advocating is a much lengthier prison sentence, as well as mandatory counseling for anyone convicted of any type of animal abuse.

The message has to be sent out across the nation that the abuse, torture and killing of animals will no longer be taken lightly.

We have all sat in front of televisions and watched stories in which animals were brutally tortured and killed and became outraged. Why do our laws not reflect this feeling? I would bet that the majority of people would much rather see this type of offender in prison for years than offenders convicted of burglary.

It is very likely this will not occur without a growing sentiment of outrage that will force lawmakers to act. As for the animals that are the source of our food supply – it’s not too much to ask that they be treated as humanely as possible.

I am not an advocate of ridding our diet of meat and throwing the meat industry into chaos, but the treatment of the animals that provide the industry’s profits needs to be improved.

Just as a society should not accept the killing of a family dog, it should not accept that the animal that provided last night’s dinner was electrocuted and dragged to its death because it could not stand.

This nation needs to change its attitude and its laws on this subject. Maybe CNN and FOX News would have more time to cover the Democratic primaries and Britney Spears’ psychotic episodes if animal cruelty stories were not appearing with a higher and higher frequency.

Drastically increasing the penalty for a crime perpetrated on an animal will require a new public stance, lawmaking bodies that will respond to the public and a little bit of time. Thanks must go out to all those animal rights groups who work to bring these issues to the forefront.