For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals
I think we can all agree that cruelty to animals is inexcusable. In the United States, all 50 states have felony provisions against animal cruelty. The 1966 Animal Welfare Act legally protects animals, mainly in zoos, laboratories, and puppy mills, and a recent 2019 law called the PACT (Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture) Act makes severe animal abuse a federal crime, not just a state crime. Violating the PACT Act is punishable by up to 7 years in prison, a fine, or both. On a state by state basis, the law typically punishes offenders with 1-3 years in prison, a fine, or both. But it’s hard not to feel that this isn’t enough…
Probably the most difficult aspect of the legal system is the question of how to equate horrible acts or violations of human rights to a numerical value. How many years in prison is equal to a human life, or someone’s life savings? It’s really impossible to answer for certain. But is 1-3 years really enough for animal torture or cruelty?
Whether it be children, animals, or other vulnerable groups of people, hurting living things is especially horrible when they cannot defend themselves. Whenever I heard about people treating dogs badly as a kid, it made me so angry! Animals are our friends, companions, and our fellow lovers of the Earth. They depend on us to take care of the climate we share, and advocate for them as they cannot speak for themselves in our court system. Moreover, cruelty to animals is often an indicator of later, more severe crimes. In fact, animal abusers are actually a whopping FIVE TIMES more likely to harm human beings later on. To read more, check out this article by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. By making animal cruelty a crime with more severe and long-lasting punishments, perhaps we could not only deter possible abusers, but also predict and prevent other violent crimes more accurately.
Although this may seem like an open-and-shut debate, the question of heightening legal punishments for animal abuse is actually more complicated of an issue than it may seem. While the goal of preventing further violent crimes is certainly admirable, increasing criminal provisions may do more harm than good. Innocent pet-owners, especially those often held in suspicion by law enforcement like people of color and working class people, could be discriminated against and penalized unfairly. What qualifies as animal abuse can range based on subjectivity, which could lead to variable punishment for the very same crime.
Additionally, would powerful institutions like zoos and laboratories be held accountable for animal cruelty to the same extent that individuals would? These are all truly complex and difficult questions to answer.
Now that you’ve heard a bit of both sides, share your opinion in the poll below! If you have an “other” answer, feel free to send kidsanimalstation a little bit about your reasoning if you’d like. I’d love to hear some different perspectives from my own. As for my own, I would say that the law should punish animal cruelty harsher, although there is surely a lot of work to do in order to ensure that the law isn’t enforced discriminatorily.