For many people who go on to commit unspeakable crimes against humans, non-human animals usually serve as the first targets. There are many examples of this. Jeffrey Dahmer, who became a human cannibal as an adult and experimented on his victims, dissected dead animals and impaled a dog’s head on a stake. Alleged murderer, Luka Rocco Magnotta, who allegedly stabbed a man repeatedly with an ice pick, dismembered him, and ate part of his body, began his criminal acts with animals, feeding a kitten to a python and also killing two kittens by placing them in a plastic bag, sucking the air out with a vacuum, dismembering them, and performing sexual acts with their body parts.
I can go on and on with many other revolting examples, but the two examples above make the point. While very difficult to hear and even write about, society needs to make the capture, prosecution, and sentencing of animal abusers a much higher priority. For example, it is amazing to me that Magnotta was never arrested by law enforcement for his kitten murders despite widespread outrage by many on the internet to identify and stop him. If he had been arrested and prosecuted for kitten murders, then the person he killed would probably still be alive today provided a meaningful sentence was implemented.
Fortunately, most states have felony provisions for animal abuse, but it is unacceptable that three do not: Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Across all states, the average maximum jail time for animal abuse is 47.2 months (about 4 years). The states that take this issue the most seriously are Alabama and Louisiana (10 year maximum sentences) and the state with the shortest sentence is North Carolina (6 months maximum sentence). The average fine for animal abuse across the U.S. is $24,420. However, that average is significantly skewed by Colorado imposing a maximum fine at $500,000, followed by Arizona at $150,000 and Oregon at $100,000. The fines from most states are actually $5,000 or less. The lowest maximum fine is $1,000, which occurs in North Carolina, Arkansas, Rhode Island, and South Dakota. One state (Tennessee) does not appear to have a fine.
Only 14 states have laws that allow for a temporary or permanent ban on animal ownership as part of sentencing. That means 36 do not. Only 7 states have laws that allow allows for animals to be included in protective orders (known as pet protective orders). That means 43 do not. Thirty-two states include mandated counseling for animal abusers. That means 28 do not.
There are a few things worth noting from the existing penalties for animal abuse, which is courtesy of Pet-Abuse.com. First, in many states, it costs more to purchase a pure breed animal than it costs to torture and kill it. That should never be the case and should be changed. Second, all states should have mandated counseling for animal abusers, allow for a permanent ban on pet ownership (after you abuse a pet you should not get a second chance), and should allow for pet protective orders. Third, the states of South Dakota and North Carolina appear to take animal abuse the least seriously since the former does not include animal abuse as a felony and has one of the lowest fines while the latter has the shortest maximum jail sentences and one of the lowest fines.
Of course, people need to use common sense when it comes to what constitutes a crime in the death of animals, since there are people who have licenses to hunt and fish, companies that slaughter animals for food, and who among us has not swatted a fly in the house to prevent the spread of germs? All of these instances, however, are vastly different from somebody who kills an animal for the express purposes of gaining pleasure from watching it suffer and/or die. These are the people who need to be identified, prosecuted, and stopped, not only in the pursuit of justice, but also to prevent hard to human beings.
Children need to be taught from early on to respect life and to follow the Golden Rule. This means no killing of animals, including insects, purely for pleasure or entertainment. This teaches empathy, which is something lacking in many people who go on to become violent criminals.
If you want to see just how common animal abuse is, just do a zipcode search in the national searchable database at Pet-Abuse.com to see the shocking results near you. Those very people may go on to abduct and kill one of your family members or someone in your community. Visit Pet-Abuse.com to find out more about how you can help.