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Fair Oaks Farm videos lead to outrage and questions — why does animal abuse occur and why is it so hard to punish?

Animal abuse guidelines in many states mandate that animals are not considered victims of crime. They’re considered property. So, beating a dog is no different than bashing a car window when it comes to sentencing.

DONNA VICKROY: ‘Earlier this month, the Animal Recovery Mission released video showing workers at Fair Oaks Farms in Newton County, Ind., beating, kicking, throwing and physically abusing calves. The videos spread quickly through social media. So did outrage. “The public is a lot less tolerant of animal cruelty. People are more willing to report it to law enforcement and more willing to hold legislators accountable when they feel laws are lagging,” she said. But, even with laws on the books in all 50 states, there still is work to be done, particularly when it comes to recognizing, acting on and punishing abuse crimes, Lassiter said…

Lassister said charges might have been more severe if the behavior captured on film — hitting calves with plastic milk bottles, throwing them into trucks and kicking them, as well as adult cows, shortly after giving birth — had occurred in another state. Disparities across the nation are spelled out on the Humane Society’s state ranking chart, which scores states according to how encompassing their animal welfare laws are. Some states do not have felony penalties for abuse of livestock, for instance…

Illinois also requires pet store disclosure on the source of animals; Indiana does not. Among other laws Illinois has that Indiana does not are felony penalties for attending dogfights and prohibitions against possession of big cats, primates and bears as pets. While officials in both states warn and might issue citations for animals left in hot cars, Indiana also has a Good Samaritan exemption for people who remove a dog from a hot vehicle; Illinois does not…

One of problems with prosecution of animal cruelty cases in every state is the acceptance that animals are property, Lassiter said. “There’s a misconception that this felony carries a sentence of so many years in prison. Unfortunately, sentencing guidelines in many states mandate that animals are not considered victims of crime. They’re considered property,” she said. “So beating a dog is no different than bashing out a car window when it comes to determining how much time you spend in jail.”

A first offense of a property crime could result in mandatory probation, she said. “The judge may not even have a choice.” The Humane Society does not want animals to be seen as people but, she said, most prosecutors agree that beating an animal to death is a much different crime than beating up a refrigerator and should be punished differently. “So we’re working with sentencing guidelines to get animals seen as living victims under the law so abusers can be punished accordingly,” she said.  SOURCE…

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