By Guest Writer Richard P. Console, Jr.
Research shows that serial killers, child abusers and rapists often have histories of committing crimes against animals, sometimes as “practice” for hurting their real targets — other people. Currently, the punishments for animal cruelty are so lax that convicted offenders are soon back on the streets and able to hurt more animals or, the next time, humans.
“A person who shall overdrive, overload, overwork, deprive of necessary sustenance, abuse, or needlessly kill a living animal or creature, or inflict unnecessary cruelty upon a living animal or creature, or unnecessarily fail to provide a living animal or creature of which the person has charge either as an owner or otherwise with proper food, drink, shelter or protection from the weather, or leave it unattended in a vehicle under inhumane conditions adverse to the health or welfare of the living animal or creature is guilty of a disorderly persons offense.”
In New Jersey, a disorderly persons offense is the equivalent of a misdemeanor in other states – it’s not even considered a true “crime,” just a minor “criminal offense,” said the Atlantic County Prosecutors Office. Yes, you read that right – in certain states, animal abuse is not officially a crime.
The punishment for this disorderly persons offense? A fine between $250 and $1,000. (So, murdering an animal is apparently less serious than a speeding ticket.) Convicted offenders can face jail time – but for no longer than six months. The sentence of 30 days of community service – yeah, that’s sure to stop animal abusers from causing any more harm.
The punishment is slightly more severe for certain crimes:
“A person who shall purposely, knowingly, or recklessly torment, torture, maim, hang, poison, unnecessarily or cruelly beat, or needlessly mutilate a living animal or creature shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. If the animal or creature is cruelly killed or dies as a result of a violation of this subsection, or the person has a prior conviction for a violation of this subsection, the person shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree with community service.”
Third degree crimes may carry as many as 3 to 5 years of jail time. If convicted of a fourth-degree crime, that jail time is limited to 18 months or less.
Photo Credit: Corbis Images.
In California, the punishments are somewhat stricter, but still not harsh enough. The fine may be as high as $20,000 for similar charges of animal cruelty – but the possible jail term is only one year or less. This is not enough to deter animal abusers or to keep dangerous individuals from hurting others.
Few crimes are as senseless as animal cruelty. A perpetrator gains nothing from the act of violence – nothing, that is, except a twisted sense of control or a very sick version of joy. Without appropriately strict penalties, the cruelty will not stop
Richard P. Console, Jr., has practiced personal injury law for 20 years. As a safety-minded advocate for injured victims, he believes strongly that animal cruelty is a threat to public safety and a danger to all of us, humans and animals alike. Console is the managing partner of Console & Hollawell, P.C., which serves accident victims throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York.