Friday, March 19, 2010

An abuser is an abuser, or: the US starts seeing animal abuse for what it is (and isn't)

I'm pleased that more and more US States are passing legislation that bar convicted animal abusers from owning or coming into contact with pets. I think it's great that further attention is being paid by authorities to animal hoarders, even though I think that the level of abuse usually perpetrated by hoarders - chronic neglect, lack of health care, inadequate care and shelter, leaving dead animals' bodies where they fall - would seem to stem from a place of more benign intentions than animal torture does. Nonetheless, animal hoarders do need to be identified and helped (or prosecuted) and the animals they hoard need to be removed. An abuser is an abuser.

I am especially pleased that eight states now require child or spousal abuse officers and animal control officers to share information and report to each other when they find something wrong. This acknowledges the chilling statistic (reported in the article) that in 88% of homes where children were abused, animals were abused too, and that women who have been abused by their intimate partner were 10 times more likely to report that their partner had also hurt or killed a pet. It helps place animal abuse in the same sphere as child or intimate partner violence and it reflects the seriousness of any abuse of the defenceless. An abuser is an abuser.

Although I see that these changes place animal abuse firmly in the real of abuse-response services, which is appropriate, and that it is widely acknowledged that the abuse of animals is a leading indicator of the abuse of humans, I still feel a little sad that the article implies that some of these laws are only here to identify and prosecute animal abusers as a means to identify and prosecute human abusers. It's an important link and one which has been instrumental in raising the profile of animal abuse as something to be acted upon, but we must also recognise that abusing animals is wrong because it is ... abusing animals. An abuser is an abuser.

This bit doesn't please me either: "Some states are bucking the trend. In Idaho, which is one of the states without a felony cruelty penalty, farmers and ranchers are pushing a bill that would more clearly distinguish livestock from pets and would exempt livestock from the protections afforded pets". Because the standard treatment of livestock amounts to abuse? Or because no one cares about a nameless faceless cow as long as Fluffy the Cat and Rex the Dog are safe at home? An abuser is an abuser. 

Many people will see animal abuse as sitting much much lower on the scale of wrongness than the abuse of humans. I'm not going to address that; it's a huge issue. But to me it is clear - people who like to hurt defenceless beings will do it to anyone they can. Abusers are abusers.

1 comment:

steph said...

Whilst I know why some farmers/industries push for crappy animal conditions, it really frustrates me and I don't understand it! Abuse is abuse is abuse, totally.