Animals don’t have a voice and humans are their only chance at speaking up about the abuse and getting justice for what is right. But when it comes to cases of animal cruelty, the court does not protect and treat all animals the same as they do human beings.
Animal cruelty, also known as animal abuse, is legally defined as any act of violence or neglect that inflicts suffering or death on animals. Animal cruelty laws typically extend only to tame or domestic animals, such as house pets, horses, and draught or other working animals. Lawful hunting or trapping of wild game, research—such as animal testing—and breeding or raising livestock can also be subjected to animal cruelty laws if unnecessary pain is being inflicted upon an animal (Gale 2017). Animal cruelty can fall under two types of categories: passive and active (intentional). Intentional abuse will be charged according to their state’s criminal law that may result in either jail time or paying fines.
Passive abuse is a gray area when it comes to every state’s criminal law because it means the owner neglected their animal and didn’t properly care for the animal in the way they should’ve. Neglection is a lesser included offense of cruelty involving the duties of caring for an animal (Welch 2009). There are several forms of active animal cruelty such as animal fighting and experimentation. Activists are attempting to raise awareness about animal abuse by creating interest groups such as PETA and SPCA. Those interest groups strive to get laws that can keep animals safe passed such as one of the first anti-cruelty law passed in New York.
The Gale Student Resources in Context article titled Animal Cruelty quotes, “Views and laws on animal cruelty or abuse vary greatly across different cultures. In many parts of the world, domestic animals are regarded primarily as property, and anti-cruelty laws may be nonexistent or limited to preventing only unnecessary acts of cruelty and abuse. At the opposite end, many people believe animals should be afforded the same moral rights and given the same legal protections as humans (Gale 2017).”
A form of animal cruelty that is legal with a license is experimentation. Scientists and corporations test on animals such as rats, mice, birds, and fish. People who support animal cruelty will go on to state that it is for the good of this world because they test this form of animal abuse for medical purposes. Before 1996, there was no regulation of animal experimentation, and they would go on to experiment on other animals, especially primates due to their similarities to humans. In response to companies using dogs as test subjects in labs, the public raised a fuss and got the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 passed by the US government. In the 1966 Animal Welfare Act, it is stated that animal testing companies must obtain a license and be registered to deal with animals.
Any violation of the AWA leads to `suspension of their license, imprisonment up to a year, and a fine of $1,000. This passing of an act leads to scientists following the three R’s: replacement, reduction, and refinement (Gale 2018). In an essay from Gale Student Resources in Context titled Animal Experimentation, “As of 2018, no country in the world had completely banned all animal experimentation… The US government reported 820,812 animals had been used in laboratory research in 2016, an increase of 6.9 percent from the previous year (767,622).” Although there has been reports of amazing medical discoveries because of animal testing, how can scientists be certain that it will benefit humans? Animals’ bodies are not physically similar to humans and neither are their organs.
One study found that fewer than 10 percent of highly promising basic science discoveries enter routine clinical use within 20 years. The National Institution of Health (NIH) has stated on their website, “Therapeutic development is a costly, complex and time-consuming process. The average length of time from target discovery to approval of a new drug is about 14 years. The failure rate during this process exceeds 95 percent, and the cost per successful drug can be $1 billion or more (National Institution of Health).” 95 percent of the drugs tested on animals don’t work and 100 million animals are killed every year due to animal experimentation.
There are other methods that can be used since technology has advanced so far in today’s time. Why not spend time trying to find alternate routes that aren’t using animals as test subjects? Kretzer states in This Ad Spells It Out: Animal Tests are Going Nowhere, “Reliable, economical non-animal methods are readily available for a wide variety of testing applications and many basic science and disease animal studies, which don’t translate to humans, can be replaced with new organ-on-chip technology, sophisticated computer simulations, 3-D cultures of human cells, epidemiological studies, and other more modern methods.”
Although animal testing is legal with a license, animal cruelty and neglect is not. There is an extreme gray area when it comes to cruelty cases. Some states may put a certain animal under the anti-cruelty statute, but in others, it could be considered to be under the wildlife statute. It may allow people to be exempt from those animal cruelty cases because an animal is not under the anti-cruelty statute.
“Incorporated into almost all anti-cruelty statutes are exemptions for certain types of animal use – these vary from state to state but generally apply to endeavors such as veterinary medicine, agriculture, hunting, and medical research (Charging Considerations in Criminal Animal Abuse Cases).” An example would be businesses such as zoos, circuses, or rodeos may be specifically exempted from prosecution under anti-cruelty statutes despite there being solid proof of animals being tortured and abused by the trainers.
Stated in PETA’s article about circuses, “To force animals to perform, circus trainers abuse them with whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks (heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on one end), and other painful tools of the circus trade…Circuses easily get away with such routine cruelty because the government doesn’t monitor training sessions and handlers are cautious when they’re in public.” Sometimes animals aren’t treated in a healthy and safe way when in an entertainment business or in any private place. It continues to be a massive problem in today’s society.
On November 13, 2018, in Shamong Township, 44 dogs were found dead in plastic bags and freezers and 162 were living in inhumane conditions with 4 in critical condition. ‘The dogs were found to be, both inside and outside, living in their own waste,” said Det. Ian Fenkel. Donna Roberts got charged with animal cruelty and released with a pending court date. Previously in 2015, she had been fined $500 by the American Kennel Club and had her privileges suspended for six months after refusing to make her dogs and their records available for inspection.
It is unknown what Roberts’ prosecution will be, but in most jurisdictions, animal cruelty is commonly charged with a misdemeanor offense. Before the adoption of an ordinance, Shamong — a community of only 6,500 where many people live on an acre or more of land — had no restrictions on the number of dogs a person could keep at their property. Now, anyone with 15 or more dogs must pay license, registration, and inspection fees. Public complaints also can now prompt inspections of a dog owner’s property — like the check on Roberts’ home that led to Tuesday’s arrest (Berkery 2018).
It is said to be extremely difficult to prosecute a case depending on the evidence surrounding it. Animal cruelty and neglect cases can be some of the most complex cases that investigators and prosecutors handle. Some of the reasons include: (1) there is no victim to give a statement or testify; (2) proving intent requires the gathering and arguing of circumstantial evidence; (3) scientific and forensic evidence is often required to prove the manner and cause of injuries and/or death; (4) large-scale seizure of animals (from an animal fighting enterprise, puppy mill, or hoarding situation) results in financial burdens on communities that may be required to house the animals as “evidence”; (5) opinions regarding animals and the laws that protect them can be difficult to address in jury trials; and (6) community response to animal abuse cases is often strong resulting in an outpouring of support (or criticism) to investigators and prosecutors who are confined by the laws protecting animals (National District Attorneys Association). Why allow this to continue? Why not give animals the right to be treated just as fairly as citizens?
Although there are many anti-cruelty laws and animal welfare programs, animals still continue to be tortured and animal cruelty prosecution cases are rarely brought up in court. They legalized experimentation on animals and exempted zoos and circuses from the animal cruelty statutes. When will animals be able to live a life just as free as human beings? When can they begin to not live in fear of hunters, corporations, and humankind? Give animals the equality they deserve and take animal cruelty cases more seriously.
- “Animal Cruelty and Neglect.” National District Attorneys Association, ndaa.org/programs/animal-abuse/animal-cruelty-and-neglect/.
- ‘Animal Cruelty.’ Gale Student Resources in Context, Gale, 2017. Student Resources In Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ2181500076/SUIC?u=j227910001&sid=SUIC&xid=bd5ee4b2. Accessed 24 Oct. 2018.
- “ANIMAL CRUELTY CASES.” Welch, K. Michelle. GPSolo, vol. 26, no. 5, 2009, pp. 64–67. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23673618.
- ‘Animal Experimentation.’ Gale Student Resources in Context, Gale, 2018. Student Resources In Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/LPQUWH681386081/SUIC?u=j227910001&sid=SUIC&xid=5b5d4497. Accessed 26 Oct. 2018.
- “Human Rights Are Animal Rights!” Tatchell, Peter. Www.counterpunch.org, 29 Mar. 2017, www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/29/human-rights-are-animal-rights/.
- “Charging Considerations in Criminal Animal Abuse Cases.” Animal Legal Defense Fund, aldf.org/article/charging-considerations-in-criminal-animal-abuse-cases/.
- “Circuses.” PETA, www.peta.org/issues/animals-in-entertainment/circuses/.
- “Six Animal Shelters across NJ Will Take in Rescued Shamong Dogs.” Berkery, Sheri. Courier-Post, CherryHill, 14 Nov. 2018, www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/crime/2018/11/14/animal-cruelty-found-dead-dogs-donna-roberts-shamong-nj/2000772002/.
- “This Ad Spells It Out: Animal Tests Are Going Nowhere.” Kretzer, Michelle. PETA, 17 July 2018, www.peta.org/blog/experiments-on-animals-fail-90-of-the-time-why-are-they-still-done/.