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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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1,007 comments on “Should Animal Abuse be Considered a Violent Crime?”

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1 Days ago

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Chris Hall
8 Days ago

Animal abuse should be taken VERY seriously, as when people abuse animals at a young age, these same people will abuse people and animals at an adult age. Animal abuse should be taken into a law by governments, but unfortunately, governments do not accept this way of thinking. Take Canada for instance, when this was brought up in the government house for as law, under Bill 246. Trudeau, our Prime Minister, shut it down, as this was not important. When is this going to become important? People should hit their members of parliament to bring this matter up into a question period to get the law changed. GOD HELP US!!!

Michael Rogers
13 Days ago

Violence is a behavioral habit that spreads across a person\'s life, they may have initially learned it from their parents or other authorities being directed toward themselves or to pets and others. It generalizes out to other interactions over time so one becomes a person that hostilly responds to ALL situations that are frustrating. This behavior of course is disliked by others making interactions FURTHER FRUSTRATING in a vicious downward cycle to the individual which is very difficult to remediate!

Mauryne Simoens
11 Aug 2017

Animal abuse of any animal should be taken seriously and the perpetrators fined, jailed and forbidden to have another animal in their life. Bring back the Scarlet Letter and the "A" is not for adultery. Think! 3 letters beginning with A.

13 Days ago

Without question! I see more and more of these b------s getting jail time and I always comment that many, many of jail inmates are animal lovers and that they will see to it that more punishment is inflicted (when nobody is looking) on these worthless sickos.

11 Aug 2017

I agree with you cwallace. I do hope that animal lovers in jail "take care" of those animal abusers...

johanna janssen
18 Days ago

Without any hesitation. the death penalty !!!

2 Months Ago

Hell Yes. Euthanize the abuser.

Ryan Sloan
3 Months Ago

Absolutely yes

3 Months Ago

Without doubt. Animal abuse should be treated as a violent crime. However, the present law must be changed . Animals have the capacity to think, learn and have sensitivity. This is well demonstrated already by guide dogs, assistance ,military , police and customs dogs. Other animals such as elephants and other species of wild life are bound by family instinct and act accordingly.
The human race does not have a monopoly on intelligence and sensitivity.
Given our history of violence to each other and to other species, we fall short , given that we are supposed to be so " intelligent "

3 Months Ago

Yes, it should be a felony. God told man to take care of his animals. Too many are doing a shabby job. Animal abuse often leads to people abuse too.

Carole Hamilton
3 Months Ago

It is a no brainer, anyone who can abuse an animal is beyond evil. They should be jailed and never allowed to have animals again


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