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Animal Abuse
Animal Abuse

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Animals possess the same kinds of feelings and emotions as human beings, and without anesthesia, they are subjected to pain as well. Cruelty means inflicting pain and causing suffering. Some forms of cruelty include: Intentional cruelty or abuse when a person knowingly deprives the basic necessities for survival or maliciously tortures, maims or kills and animal; Neglect, when a person fails to provide proper basic necessities; Dog fighting, a game when 2 dogs are specifically bred or conditioned to fight in a pit for gambling or entertainment purposes and Animal hoarding whereby the caregiver houses a large accumulation of animals and unable to provide basic necessities with deteriorating condition of the animal environment. (HSUS)

Statistics show that the majority victims of abused victims are companion animals which consist of mainly dogs and cats. The bulk of abused victims weigh heavily on companion animals that consist mainly of dogs and cats, which leads to my emphasis on the cruelty to domesticated animals in this paper. (HSUS 2003 report of Animal Cruelty Cases)

Fortunately, various animal rights groups such as American Society for the Prevention of animals (ASPCA), American Humane Association (AHA) and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as well as many other grass roots organizations have sprouted throughout the United States in opposition to animal cruelty.

In 1822 Richard Martin established the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Britain and Laws were created in 1849 and 1854 for protected animals. The movement spread to the United States, and Henry Bergh in New York established the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The ASPCA since its inception has become a role model for other similar organizations to follow. The organization has a legislative action center in which volunteers are asked to write their legislatures in order to rally for stricter penalties against animal cruelty. Volunteers are kept abreast on current issues related to animal cruelty. The society also keeps a listing of animal humane law enforcement officials and animal control agencies throughout the United States. (ASPCA Fight). The most widely recognized organizations are the American Society for the Prevention of Animals and the American Humane Association.

In 1877 the American Humane Association was organized to protect children and animals. The American Human Association is a network of people who prevent the abuse, exploitation and neglect of both animals and children. The organization educates people about animal issues through activities like “Be Kind to Animals Week” and “Tag” day. It also rescues animals during and after natural disasters and trains animal shelter professionals. The American Human Association is the only organization that has control over animals used in the television and movie industry. Finally, the AHA advocates for laws that are “animal friendly.” (AHA)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) advocates against killing animals to eat, use for entertainment or for the use of their animal skin or furs. The organization keeps a list of action alerts, urging people to rally against large companies like Gucci for killing animals for leather, ToysRUs that promotes circuses and petting zoos and cruel animal testing by pharmaceutical companies. Members lobby legislatures on tougher animal rights laws and launch writing campaigns urging companies to improve treatment to animals. (PETA)

Smaller grass-roots organizations like the Animal Cruelty Action line employ cruelty humane officers and police to report animal abuse. Case workers then contact prosecutors who are working on cruelty cases and gather information to strengthen the case against people charged with the crime.

In May, two teenager boys, aged 16 and 17, were jailed for two days and fined $500 for setting a black-and-white cat on fire in a Colorado parking lot. The cat was rushed to an animal hospital with 25 percent of his body covered in third-degree burns. About 10 percent of its body had first and second-degree burns. The cat had to undergo three surgeries and amputations, which it eventually lost its ears, tail and a leg. The cat, which was a stray, was later adopted. Due to the high profile of the case, a lawmaker was moved to lobby for harsher animal cruelty penalties. The boys told prosecutors that they set the cat on fire because they wanted to see his tail burn like those in the cartoons. They were sentenced to 18 months of probation. Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor in Colorado (Abused Cat).

Cruelty to animal laws first began in the Nineteenth Century. At first, laws were lumped together that also protected children and lunatics. At that time, the laws only enforced violence that was deemed “a public nuisance.” In recent years, states throughout the U.S. have passed tougher animal cruelty laws. Most states have adopted animal cruelty laws that consider such actions a felony. States have also required that people who are convicted of animal cruelty charges undergo psychological evaluation and counseling. “Five states–Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, and Massachusetts–have introduced bills that mandate cross reporting between animal control officers and child protective services” (Cruelty and Family Abuse 14). Earlier this year, Nevada passed a law that requires the juvenile court to mandate counseling to children who have been found hurting animals. Parents must pay for the therapy. Two states, Minnesota and West Virginia, mandate that vets report cases of animal abuse that they notice or suspect. Idaho protects vets against civil and criminal cases that could arise if they report abuse and is then sued by the suspect. That state, however, doesn’t require that the vets report abuse. In April, Arkansas was trying to pass a stricter animal abuse law whereby people convicted of abuse would have to pay a $10,000 fine and spend up to six years in jail. The current law treats animal abuse as a misdemeanor worth a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail (Stricter Laws 8).
Many researchers have found that a history of animal violence indicates a high propensity for interpersonal violence. Although not all animal abusers become serial killers, most serial killers began their killing spree with animals. “One of the causes of aggression toward both animals and people is inability on the part of the aggressor to read the signals being given off by the other party. He or she (usually he) reacts violently because he misinterprets the intentions of the other person or animal. Understanding animal behavior and nonverbal communication are topics for humane education. Another cause of violence is lack of empathy. Without the ability to mentally put him in another’s shoes, a person sees others as objects instead of feeling beings – and abuse becomes easy. Thus the development of empathy for others, human and nonhuman, must be an integral part of humane education.” (Elizabeth Gredley)
Teenage mass killings case such as Luke Woodham, age 16, wrote in his personal journal that he and an accomplice beat, burned and tortured his dog, Sparkle, to death. Woodham said it was “true beauty.” He poured liquid fuel down his dog’s throat and set fire to her neck, both inside and outside. On the morning of 1st October 1977, Woodham stabbed his mother to death and then went to his high school where he shot and killed two classmates, aged 16 and 17, and injured seven others. In June 1998, Woodham was found guilty of three murders and seven counts of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to three life sentences and an additional 20 years for each assault. A 1997 study by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) reports that youngsters convicted of animal abuse are five times more likely to commit violence against other humans than are their peers, four times more likely to be involved in acts against property, and three times more likely to be drug offenders.
Another case of a fifteen year old freshman at Thurston High school in Springfield, Oregan, Kip Kinkel cut the heads off cats and mounted them on sticks, mutilated a cow and bragged about stuffing lighted firecrackers in cats mouth and killing small animals. Kinkel subsequently murdered both his parents, went to his high school and opened fire, killing 2 and injuring 22. Kinkel took a semi automatic rifle, 2 handguns and a backpack loaded with ammunitions to school. He fired 51 rounds of ammunition at his classmates.
The rise in school killings in recent times is a worrying problem for parents who will always wonder if their child will be in the same classroom with an adolescent killer, or at the canteen at the wrong time. The fine line between a person causing animal cruelty and human abuse is often ignored. People abuse animals for the same reasons they abuse people; that is a way for a human to find power or joy or fulfillment through the torture of a defenseless victim.
Despite animal rights association efforts to fight abuse; statistics still show that abuse has not declined in recent years. The number of abandoned and mistreated animals is overwhelming. Over six percent of animals abused have to be euthanized due to the chronic disease or abuse; animals are still being reported maliciously abused and sentences are still handed out month after month.
One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture
an animal and get away with it. Our child must be taught that it wrong to poke at
puppy’s eyes. Our children must learn the most important aspects of life and if they’re not aware of what is right and wrong, it could possibly lead to more dangerous attempts.
Including humane education as part of regular school curriculum will help all children learn appropriate behavior, not just those fortunate enough to come from stable, loving homes, but it is critical for high-risk children such as those who have been abused. When children learn to treat animals well, they are more apt to treat people well. If children are allowed to express their frustration and aggression by abusing animals, they will learn to express it on other people as well, perpetuating the cycle of violence and opening the doors to a future life of child abuse, domestic abuse and other interpersonal violence.
When dealing with intervention programs for at-risk or high-risk children, Counselors often begin with animals in cases of profoundly abused children because animals offer unconditional love and because most children are naturally drawn to animals.

One of the consequences of neglect and abuse is the loss of a child’s ability to trust. Through the process of learning to care for animals, children learn to trust the animal not to hurt them, and eventually begin to trust the counselors not to hurt them. Through positive interaction with animals and counselors, children coming from environments of physical or sexual abuse learn about “safe touching”, and can begin to overcome their fears of physical contact that have resulted from years of abuse. From there they can begin to apply these trust concepts to others, and progressively learn how to form healthy relationships.
A good humane education program also helps develop empathy, trust, respect, sensitivity, personal responsibility, community responsibility, self-control, self-worth and self-esteem. They also begin to understand the concepts of a positive feedback cycle: when the child treats the animal well, the animal gives them more attention. This is especially relevant in situations where a child is accustomed to behaving badly and acting out as a way to get the attention they are being routinely denied.
The child learns personal responsibility and community responsibility and begins to understand that they are accountable for their actions (or lack of action) and that there are consequences if they do not fulfill their responsibility – encouraging personal responsibility. They perform a contributing and positive role in the community, and are able to enjoy the rewards of being a productive member of that small society.
While we nurture our young, as members of the society, we should not tolerate cruelty towards animals. Citizens of the public are important in helping to stop animal abuse by reporting any act of cruelty or neglect to the humane investigator at the nearest humane society, animal control department or SPCA. Alternatively, contact your local law enforcement or Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) to determine which prosecuting office is the appropriate one to contact in your jurisdiction. Always insist suspected cases of abuse to be investigated as an innocent life is depending on it.
Scruffy, a 12 year old Yorkshire Terrier who weighed only 6 pounds, lived with the Whitmire family’s granddaughter of Kansas City, Kansas, in a home where he was well cared for and had the love of little children who wanted nothing but to love and play with him. On June 27 1997, Jose Gutierrez, aged 17, Marcus Rodriguez, aged 18, Richard Golubski, aged 20 and Lance Arsenalt aged 21 obtained a video camera and started to record the most sadistic murder ordeal Scruffy had to endure. After luring Scruffy out of his home, one of the men elevated Scruffy off the ground by the neck and began choking him. Scruffy, still alive, was then placed in a trash bag. These evil men then doused the trash bag with what appeared in the video to be lamp oil, took a cigarette lighter, and set Scruffy on fire. Scruffy, at this point in the video, began to run wildly in pain and agony around the trees while Joe, Marcus, Richard and Lance watched and laughed. When the flames finally went out, Scruffy was still alive, but his torture was not over. The men tried to decapitate Scruffy with a shovel. After slamming the shovel into Scruffy’s neck and not being able to attain their goal, they realized that Scruffy was more of a fighter than they had expected. The men then opened Scruffy’s mouth and began to pull his jaws apart, as if trying to rip his face in two, all the while laughing and having a good time. They then proceeded to use the shovel in place of a club and beat Scruffy until his tiny body gave out and he died. They made copies of this obscene six-minute videotape showing the barbaric torture and murder of this tiny pet, and distributed these copies to their friends, to be enjoyed over, and over again. When the law finally caught up with them, they told the police they committed the crime because they were bored! (Pet-Abuse.com). I felt sick in my stomach that such act was contemplated joy was derived from such malicious and brutal torture.

The four persons alleged were eventually sentenced. Marcus Rodriquez, then 18, got a sentence of 2 years and 3 months in prison for arson and a year in the county jail for animal cruelty. He got a credit for 3 months for time already served and will not have to serve the additional year if he completes a parole program. Lance Arsenault, then 21, was sentenced to one year and 10 months in prison for arson and a year in the county jail for animal cruelty. He too got a credit for 3 months for time already served and will not have to serve the additional year if he completes a parole program. Richard Golumbski, then 20 and Jose Gutierrez, 17, received prison and jail terms but were place on probation for two years and are expected to receive psychiatric treatment. An update on August 5, 1998, Lance Arsenault now age 22, was ordered back to jail for six months for violating probation on prior drug possession charges. (The commission of the crimes against Scruffy, a felony and a misdemeanor, and failing to show proof that he had been adhering to the drug testing requirements of his probation.

Many felt the punishment did injustice to Scruffy who didn’t have a good start in life, but had finally settled down in a home and looking forward to spend the rest of his life in peace in a loving home. But then again, is there a punishment worthy of the sordid crime?

If Scruffy was human, capital punishment by death sentence would be unavoidable; but scruffy was merely a dog. To sentence 4 humans to death for the death of a twelve-year-old dog would have been hard to accept. How do we measure the value of a life then? Did intelligence give humans the god-like power to decide that a human life is more valuable than that of any other living beings? Legislators are constantly lobbying for harsher legal systems, hopefully in time all states will treat animal cruelty as the horrible and senseless crime that it is.

While animal rights organizations and the legal system do their part for the victims of cruelty, an animal is suffering in every case reported. There is only one solution to end this vicious cycle and that is to not mistreat or abuse animals in any way. Society needs to think of a pet as a child; they need love, affection, understanding, and most of all patience. Though a cliché, a pet really IS for life. People are too concerned with themselves to think about their pets. Therefore many pets suffer in the hands of their owner. All it takes is a little thought and our society could put an end to a disease called abuse.

1. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer
2. ASPCA Fight http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=cruelty
3. Animal Cruelty Action Line http://www.aldf.org/line.htm
4. “Animal Cruelty Linked to Family Abuse.” USA Today Magazine Aug. 2001: 14.
5. “Animal Cruelty.” Enclopedia.com. the Columbia Electronic Library Sixth Edition. http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/c1/cruelty.asp
6. American Humane Association (AHA) http://www.americanhumane.org/site/PageServer
7. “Case of Abused Cat Draws Attention.” AP Online via Comtex. 28 Sept. 2001.
8. “2002 Report of Animal Abuse Cases” The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
9. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. http://www.peta-online.org
10. “States Look At Stricter Animal Cruelty Laws.” State Legislatures. April 2001: 8
11. Pet-Abuse.Com. http://www.pet-abuse.com/
12. Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) http://www.mspca.org/site/pp.asp?c=gtIUK4OSG&b;=126815
13. Violence Link Research and Humane Education by Elizabeth Gredley

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