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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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1,553 comments on “Should Animal Abuse be Considered a Violent Crime?”

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9 Hours ago

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3 Days ago

I think so, these animals can\'t speak. they need help! it\'s inhumane, people like that should get the same treatment what they do to these animals all animals, they have feelings, they love, they protect.GOD made them for us! as humans we have to help and protect them!

4 Days ago

YES, abusing animals is a violent crime. Animals are living creatures just like us. The fact that they don\'t talk doesn\'t turn them into chairs or stones. Whoever abuses animals should suffer the consequences.

Darlene Robinson
12 Dec 2017

I pray that they burn in hell. I have no patience for cruelty against any animal.

Lita Modell
6 Days ago

It is rare that kindness can be taught through an act of violence. What is generally being advocated is more violence. We already have the highest percentage of our population in prison than any other nation in the world. The cost for this travesty is a approximately $30,000 per person per year. Often the person who is abusing an animal has already suffered tremendous personal abuse. I hope that all who commented strongly in favor of punitive action are vegan, although I would doubt it. If you are not vegan or at least a vegetarian you are already causing untold suffering to innocent animals on a regular basis and promoting farms where stress and death are daily realities. Because we do not see it does not mean it isn\'t happening and we aren\'t responsible.
Let us seek how to make this a better world for humans and animals. let us look for reasons and healing. There laws enough.

10 Dec 2017

I\'m sorry but saying that the jails are too full and it\'s too expensive is a cop out in my opinion. Why should animals have to pay the price for some humans\' depravity and cruelty. I don\'t care if someone has suffered in their life and use it as a justification to abuse those weaker than them. Too bad. Lots have people have had horrible things happen to them but it doesn\'t make them go and set fire to a dog. Should we make lesser crimes against humans not punishable by law too? Maybe we should only incarcerate for murder and let all the other crimes slide... I mean jail is expensive and the jails are quite full? Sorry but no. Crimes against animals should be treated for what they are, and that is violent crimes.

Sylvia Weeden
7 Days ago

Animal abuse is a violent crime and should be treated as such. Animals are defenseless, just like abused children. Only disturbed and dangerous people prey on the defenseless. Without a doubt more children would be rescued from abusive homes if animal abuse was considered and investigated as a violent crime.

7 Days ago

Yes animal abuse should be a violent crime, punishable by minimum 5 years no loop holes and no good time and never again should these scum of the earth be even near another animal or back to prison.

8 Days ago

Any person who would inflict pain upon a helpless animal is certainly psychologically capable to inflict pain and great bodily harm upon a child or person and should be held to the same standard as harming or hurting a human. The definition of "property" should differentiate between a living, breathing animal, as distinct from an inanimate object.

9 Days ago

I think that animal abuse is a \'violent crime." All animals have a right to be treated with humane kindness and respect. The people who commit abuse, not only to animals, but to other people as well, are the real \'Animals\', not the animals themselves. I think that the old Biblical law of \'a Tooth for a Tooth\' would be great punishment for people who abuse animals or other people as a punishment for their crimes. Let them feel what it feels like to be abused and hurt!!!

9 Days ago

I think that animal abuse is a \'violent crime." And animals have a right to be treated with humane kindness and respect. The people who commit abuse, not only to animals to to people as well, are the real \'Animals, not the animals themselves. I think that the old Biblical law of a Tooth for a Tooth would be great punishment for people who abuse animals or other people as a punishment for their crimes. Let them feel what it feels like to be abused and hurt!!!


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