Animal cruelty and the case for harsher punishment
There’s something uniquely sickening about cases of animal abuse that outrages the community more than most crimes. To hear of a defenceless creature being brutalised by a cowardly attacker can get the blood of even the gentlest soul boiling.
This week we learnt of the shocking case of Snowy, a much loved family pet suffering horrific injuries at the hands of a torturer. The 18-month-old cat’s ears were mutilated and he had been set alight. Also this week charges against the man believed to have tortured Buckley, a puppy who had his ears and tail hacked off, were dropped amid fears that the case would not stand up in court.
In recent months there have been multiple cases of animals being tortured and killed in a trend that appears to be Australia wide. It seems no animal is immune from such callous attacks; pets, wildlife, even dolphins have been targeted by individuals who derive some sort of thrill from inflicting pain on an innocent creature. Despite the increasingly violent and sadistic nature of these attacks and the public’s growing disgust, offenders if caught can expect little more than a slap on the wrist.
More often than not these cases don’t reach the courts but the few that do demonstrate our judicial system’s failure to treat animal abuse as a serious offence. Magistrates can impose jail terms of up to 5 years but it is extremely rare for a custodial sentence to be handed down in an animal abuse case. Despite extensive evidence linking cruelty to animals to serious violent offences against people, the judiciary continue to treat such crimes as largely trivial matters.
If our system is designed to punish as well as prevent serious criminal offences then surely greater attention needs to be paid to those who mistreat animals, particularly those who torture and kill for fun. The direct relationship between animal abuse and violent crime has been recognised by the FBI since the 1970s. Many of the world’s most notorious killers have long histories of animal abuse; Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, Edmund Kemper and Albert DeSalvo better known as the Boston Strangler were all fond of torturing animals. In Australia murderers such as Paul Denyer, Robert Barrett and Ivan Milat are known to have tortured animals long before they started killing people.
What greater motivation do our legislators and Courts need to treat animal cruelty with the utmost seriousness? Simply cautioning offenders is not good enough.
In the US, there has been a growing trend towards toughening laws to make animal abuse a felony rather than a misdemeanour. Penalties for individuals who engage in deliberate animal cruelty have been increased, dramatically in some states. England has similarly strengthened its animal welfare laws but in Australia we continue to treat these heinous crimes as minor offences not worthy of lengthy custodial sentences despite profilers and psychologists telling us that one of the strongest precursors to violent crime including murder is a history of animal abuse. Tough penalties including incarceration must be handed down for serious animal abuse cases.
You don’t need to be a psychologist to work out that only a uniquely depraved individual could ignore the agonised cries of a defenceless animal and continue the ghastly business of inflicting maximum pain and suffering.
To allow such cruel and sadistic behaviour to go unpunished is not only morally reprehensible, it may very well have dire consequences when at some point these offenders turn their particular brand of rage and fury on the rest of us.
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