How often do we run into a serious statewide problem that has a common sense, uncontroversial solution that saves lives and money?
I don’t think this happens very often.
“To be fair, Republicans haven’t been leading animal rights issues, and here’s a chance to do so,” US Representative Nancy Mace said Dec. 16 during a trip to Morgan Island, where monkeys are high for federal government research laboratories.
But we in South Carolina also have another challenge: Most states have a prohibition of possession – a law that restricts a convicted animal abuser’s future access to animals – but our state does has no such trouble.
For example, it is troubling that criminal felons violate our state’s animal fighting and baiting law over and over again for years, but we do not restrict their access to animals. Nothing in our animal protection laws prevents these dangerous individuals from having animals in their care after release.
This year, thousands of dogs and other animals that lived in unimaginable misery were seized from puppy mills and backyard breeding operations. Breeders can easily buy back more than 100 animals in a year and resume their activity after release.
Those convicted of crimes of a violent nature are prohibited from owning firearms or ammunition, but someone who tortures dozens of dogs for years has no restricted access to the animals. How can that mean something?
Many law enforcement officials will tell you that where they find abused animals, they also sometimes find illegal drugs, child abuse, illegal guns, gambling, and youth involved. in antisocial behavior. There is a link between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence. Children learn from role models that it is okay to mistreat animals and that the penalties are likely to be minimal.
When it comes to legislation, education, and funding, animals in our state never seem to be a priority. They deserve better.
A statewide possession ban is one of the most effective and immediate ways to identify animals at risk and reduce the number of victims. Jail time and a fine are usually not enough to prevent reoffending for many abusers. Cases of abuse are often motivated by a lack of empathy; probation and a nominal fine is not that significant.
This year, I reached out to those on the front lines to end animal abuse in our state and beyond, including law enforcement officials, prosecutors, vets, shelter managers. , relief organizations, legislative lawyers and others. Their overwhelming responses included:
- “I want that too.”
- “I can never have too many tools to deal with these criminals. “
- “Repeat offenders are the rule, not the exception.”
- “Let’s do this right.”
Sometimes they tell me about a tragic case of cruelty and how our legal system and the laws supposed to protect animals have abandoned them. Sometimes they tell me how our system and our laws have done things right.
Our animals deserve a legal sentence that prevents those convicted of animal cruelty from owning, caring for, living with or working with animals for a specified period of time, depending on the nature of the crime. I have found a few judges across our state who have restricted an abuser’s access to animals during sentencing, but this is rare and is generally not enforceable beyond a period of probation. .
The only way this can happen is for a state legislator to sponsor a comprehensive and meaningful bill that would prevent the same abusers from committing the same acts of cruelty over and over again.
Let’s keep our animals out of the hands of the usual aggressors. Animals should not have to suffer needlessly because of the condition in which they live.
Kristy carruthers is a medical assistant in Greenville and an animal welfare advocate.