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Justice has finally been served for Caitlyn, the Staffordshire bull terrier mix from North Charleston, South Carolina who suffered extensive damage after her muzzle was savagely bound with electrical tape for 36 hours. Caitlyn has, thankfully, recovered. And now, her abuser, William Leonard Dodson, was just served the South Carolina’s maximum sentence for animal cruelty.

Animal cruelty laws vary by state, and the maximum punishment in South Carolina is only five years. Even the judge on the case said that he wished he could give Dodson a longer sentence. But lacking animal abuse penalties are common in many states because animals are still considered mere “property” in the eyes of the law, even though we know that they are highly sentient beings who are very capable of experiencing pain and fear.

Nonetheless, this case sets an important precedent in a time when animal abuse crimes are often ignored by authorities. Because what those authorities fail to realize is that animal abuse is often a forewarning of larger crimes. Studies have shown that people who injure or abuse animals are more likely to hurt or murder people, and family pets are often targeted by domestic abusers, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising, then, that Caitlyn’s abuser, known drug dealer William Leonard Dodson, has a record of multiple felonies and is currently serving a 15-year sentence for weapons possession charges. The five-year punishment he received for Caitlyn’s abuse won’t lengthen his current sentence, but it could help ensure that future animal abuse cases will continue to deliver the full penalties allowed by law.

As for Caitlyn, Dodson claims that he “had to do it” because “she wouldn’t shut up,” demonstrating a clear lack of remorse, empathy, and moral integrity. Luckily, Caitlyn managed to escape from this criminal in time for veterinarians to remove the tape that had cut off all circulation to her nose and tongue and enable her to live. She was fortunate to survive, but, unfortunately, not all undeserving victims are.

You can help these other animal victims by urging your state legislators and representatives to impose stronger punishments for animal cruelty charges, by supporting the implementation of animal abuse registries nationwide, and by documenting and reporting any animal cruelty that you personally witness or suspect.

Image source: Charleston Animal Society/Facebook