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As news reports and undercover investigations reveal, animal abuse occurs with troubling regularity in the United States. No species of animal seems to be immune from this cruelty: from companion animals to circus animals to farmed animals, animal abuse is an increasingly concerning issue.

Perhaps more concerning is how little protection and justice animals are afforded under the law. Very often, animal abuse is simply ignored by authorities. When it is charged as a crime, defendants often get away with insignificant misdemeanor convictions and trivial fines as their only punishment. For example, a New Jersey woman who starved her dog, stuffed him into a trash bag, dumped him into a garbage disposal, and left him to die only received a $2,000 fine and 18 months of probation for her crime. In another case, workers who viciously kicked, stomped on, and beat dairy cows at an Idaho dairy farm received nothing more than minuscule $500 fines.

These disproportionate results may be because historically, animal abuse has not been considered a particularly serious crime. However, there are a number of reasons why animal abuse should be taken much more seriously and considered a “violent crime” deserving of stronger punishment.

What is a “Violent Crime?”

A “violent crime” is one where the victim of the crime is harmed by or threatened with violence. Under U.S. law, violent crimes include murder, rape, sexual assault, robbery, and assault. Such crimes are considered especially serious and are thus closely tracked by law enforcement and typically punished more harshly than other crimes.

Currently, a violent crime only qualifies as such if the victim of the crime is a human being. This means that an act of violence committed against an animal – no matter how egregious – is not technically considered a violent crime, and it is not punished as such.

Why Isn’t Animal Abuse Currently Considered a Violent Crime?

Astonishingly, animals are still considered property under the law, much the same as a table or chair. Because violent crimes contemplate harms committed against people and not against property, animal abuse does not qualify as a violent crime, despite the fact that animal abuse very obviously involves violence.

Instead, animal abuse is often treated as an infraction or low-level misdemeanor, typically punished by no more than a fine and probation.

Animal Abuse Should be Considered a Violent Crime!

There are a number of very important reasons that animal abuse should be considered a violent crime in our legal system.

First, we know based on personal experience and countless scientific studies that animals are not things. They are nothing like other “property” such as tables and chairs. Animals are sentient beings with the ability to feel a range of emotions, and they are harmed both physically and psychologically by violent abuse, much as human beings are. They deserve to be treated under the law as the complex creatures that they are.

Second, animal abuse is strongly linked with other forms of abuse, such as domestic violence and child abuse. One study found that animal abuse occurred in 88 percent of homes where child abuse had been discovered. Another study found that up to 83 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters report that their abusers also abuse the family pet. In fact, animal abusers are five times more likely to abuse people.

Changing the Law to Change Public Perception

By classifying animal abuse as a violent crime and tracking and punishing it accordingly, we will protect both helpless animals and the people animal abusers are more likely to abuse. While it is incredibly important to appropriately punish animal abusers this change would play an even larger role in the way we regard animals in our society.

When we consider the harm done to animals as equal to the harm done to members of our own species, we can begin to change cultural perceptions of animals and one day upgrade their status from being property to being individuals in their own right. It is only when this conscious change is made that we can hope to see a real change in the way that people treat and view animals. It’s not only an upgrade in the law, but an upgrade in our own values.

Image Source: Tim Dawson/Wikimedia Commons

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1,610 comments on “Should Animal Abuse be Considered a Violent Crime?”

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Inger Keator
1 Days ago

Absolutely. These evil, sick people should who abuse these poor defenseless animals should not be abused and it should absolutely be considered a VIOLENT CRME and should be jailed.


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FOR THE LOVE OF ANIMALS
3 Days ago

YES. INDEED YES. ANIMAL CRUELTY SHOULD BE CLASSED AS A VIOLENT CRIME. IT IS SICKENING HOW SUCH EVIL PEOPLE GET AWAY WITH CRIMES AGAINST THOSE WITHOUT A VOICE. PEOPLE WHO ARE CRUEL TO ANIMALS ARE ARE NOT PEOPLE. THEY ARE WALKING EVILS.


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Letty
6 Days ago

YES! someone who is violent to animials will be violent to people.Proven fact.


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Clarissa Green
10 Days ago

If it is not considered to be violent then the person who did it should get the same thing. Then all is fair since it is not considered to be a violent crime - for the IGNORANT states who have not gotten on board yet


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Irene Henle
11 Days ago

Its violence against animals Violence against innocent animals.
But our own universities and government breeds laboratory beagles for unethical experiments.
Let\'s include factory farming.horrific conditions for them,Soring horses for what?
Change the laws to protect all animals.What about the government Lab.in Nevada that the New York Times exposed ia couple years ago? Shameful abuses for "science"Lets all require our candidates to push for new laws to classify animal abuse as a violent crime?/ Because it IS !!


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DAWN PO TTS
16 Days ago

yes it should ! anyone who can abuse an animal is less than human !


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Anne
24 Days ago

Duh! Isn\'t this a no-brainer for anyone with a heart and soul??? It should be treated the same as violence and abuse against humans. I guarantee that the same sickos engaging in animal abuse are also abusive to humans - I used to work in the domestic violence field and saw that ALL the time.


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B Church
25 Days ago

Of course animal abuse sh/be classified as a violent crime & those criminals sh/be charged as such!!!!!


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G.M.
28 Days ago

I believe anyone who can hurt an animal( Angels from God) should be put to death. They are special, should not be out doors if they are domesticated. Should NEVER BE ON A CHAIN OR IN A CRATE OUTSIDE of any kind!!!!! Should be outside only if their human with them,getting fresh air and playing, or safely walking on a leash. Some people do not understand how Lucky we are to exist with animals, how special they are or should be. They love us unconditionally, that love and trust should never be broken. I know our 4 legged children are our lives. So YES WE feel a life is a life,animals are a lot better than most humans. The only thing they ever stole from me is my heart, but in return they give so much more back, I would go hungry to feed or to get medical help for our 2, 4 legged kids. It breaks my heart to see a hurt or abandoned animal.


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Diane Silvestri
28 Days ago

Animal abuse is a violent crime and should be considered as such! Anyone who is vicious enough to harm an animal is not worthy of living. Animal abuse must be taken much more seriously than it is. We are making strides in the right direction, but not nearly enough punishment is meted out for these horrendous crimes. I saw we sentence animal abusers to the same treatment they inflict on poor, helpless animals. An eye for an eye!!!!!!!!!


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