In The Justice System, often Animal Cruelty cases evoke more outrage among the general public than a child abuse case. And, for anyone that has owned a pet, it’s not difficult to understand why. Not only are pets seen as part of the family, but some pet owners even go as far as to give pets birthday and Christmas presents. Annually, owners spend more than $50 billion on pet care, presents, and even professional photos. Today, more than two thirds of American households own pets, and that number is on the rise.
The law is starting to catch up with the public’s feeling towards pets. Just last year, the Illinois state house passed a law requiring divorce courts to not only split pets between their “parents” in custody battles, but also to think of their well-being.
Illinois is not alone in changing how they view the treatment of their pets. Last year, Alaska amended its divorce statutes so that judges are now required to consider the well being of the pets. They can also assign joint custody over an animal. Many believe changes to laws, like these, are the first step toward recognizing the rights of animals, not as property, but as sentient individuals.
Even the FBI is moving towards heightened protections for animals. Under a new FBI procedure, animal cruelty is its own category in the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. This change allows more accurate reporting of animal cruelty cases, and having more accurate numbers may allow law enforcement to better fight the problem. Previously under the reporting guidelines, animal cruelty was classified as “other.” Now, they are broken into four categories: intentional abuse, simple and gross neglect, organized abuse (such as animal fighting) and bestiality. Under these new guidelines, animal cruelty offenses are classified as crimes against society. “It moves animals away from the category of property,” says Mary Lou Randour, senior advisor for animal cruelty programs at the Animal Welfare Institute.
Some, however, are hesitant to use the word “sentient” when drafting new legislation, citing concerns for the unintended consequences as viewing animals as people in the eyes of the law. “We kill millions of animals a day for food,” says Richard Epstein, a law professor at NYU. “If they have the right to bodily liberty, it’s basically a holocaust.”
While the law may not ultimately grant personhood rights to animals, it’s clear that there is a trend toward greater protections for animals. Federal and local law enforcement are starting to take animal cruelty seriously. If you or a loved one is under investigation or has been charged with animal cruelty, it is important to obtain effective criminal defense representation. Cruelty to animals can be a felony and result in a prison sentence. Do not delay, call the Law Office of John Freeman, PLLC for help today!