Animal cruelty was once considered a sideline issue relegated to a few “extremists” who cared a lot about our four legged friends. But, over the years, animal advocates have taken a front seat in pushing for jail sentences for those that harm animals and some officials are listening. For example, New York City created an Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad, and the FBI has announced the creation of a new federal category for animal cruelty crimes this month to better track those offenses. But, some in the legal community say their actions don’t deserve jail time, since it can lead to gang affiliations and could interrupt a potentially productive life.
Cases of animal cruelty are vastly under-reported, according to legal experts. But the killing of nearly 1,000 chickens at a Foster Farms facility in Fresno County has thrown a spotlight on these kind of cases. Today, police announced that they have arrested four people--one 18-year-old man and three juveniles--in connection to the case, who are being charged with burglary and felony cruelty to animals.
Is jail too harsh a sentence for those who hurt animals? What are the underlying causes that lead to animal abuse? What might other consequences be for those that cause pain or neglect to animals?
Diane Balkin, Contract Attorney, Criminal Justice Program, Animal Legal Defense Fund. She is the former Chief Deputy District Attorney in the Denver District Attorney’s Office
Matthew Guerrero, Esq., criminal defense attorney in San Luis Obispo County. He is Treasurer of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, an organization of criminal defense lawyers and criminal defense professionals in the state