Cracking Down on Cruelty

By: Amy Gleason
By: Amy Gleason

Current laws state that animal cruelty is a misdemeanor, even if the act results in the death of the animal. The new law that starts July 1 will make it a felony if a cruel act to a dog or cat ends up in the animal's death. That offense carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Her in Harrisonburg, felony abuse is not very common. "Most of our cruelty cases are abandonment or neglect," said Officer Jetta Earhart of the Harrisonburg Police Department. "A lot of times it's uneducated owners, first time owners, that don't realize what it takes to take care of a dog."

Officer Earhart says that in Harrisonburg, there were only two cases last year that would have qualified as a felony. She adds that if someone is convicted of cruelty or neglect of an animal, that person will be banned from owning a pet for life. Extended Web Coverage

Why Should You Want to Stop Animal Abuse?

  • Studies of prison inmates show that 75 percent of violent offenders had early records of animal cruelty.

  • Studies have shown that families that were reported for animal abuse also had children listed as "high risk" for abuse and neglect.

  • In a Utah State University study, out of 101 female victims of domestic violence, 73 reported that the abuser either threatened or harmed their pets.

  • Animal abuse has been found to be an indication of child abuse, it has been found that animals are abused in 88 percent of the families where children are abused.

  • Ted Bundy, David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz and Jeffrey Dahlmer all had histories of repeated animal cruelty.

  • Animal cruelty carries felony-level penalties in about one-third of the United States, and is still treated as a minor crime in most places, according to the Humane Society.

  • In the 401 animal abuse cases reviewed, 15 percent ended with someone going to court, and only 8 percent received a jail sentence.

Source: Web Reports

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