July 10, 2016 – Opinion by Jerry Finch
“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” -Anthropologist Margaret Mead
As part of my less formal but vitally important education, I attended a course from HSUS called “First Strike – The Violence Connection.” While the material presented was shocking, the conclusion fits like a glove onto every scenario of animal abuse and neglect that I’ve witnessed. The bottom line is that when you see a person who is guilty of animal abuse, you are also looking at a person who has no problem beating the hell out of another human. Animal abuse is a proven predictor of violent behavior.
The FBI considers past animal abuse not only as a predictor of human violence, but uses it when profiling serial killers. In one study alone 70 percent of women seeking shelter from physical abuse report that their partners had threatened, injured or killed one or more family pets.
There is no doubt about the connection. Anyone who is even vaguely and remotely interested in the subject can Google “animal abuse and human violence” and have instant access to over 2.7 million articles. Those articles are not hidden from law enforcement or the judicial system. No one is telling the prosecutors, “Oh, don’t look at that stuff. Doesn’t mean anything.”
So the question of the day is – why do those who beat, starve and kill animals receive little more than a slap on the wrist? What part of the statement, “…a predictor of human violence….,” does our judicial system not understand?
Case in point – Naysa was a bone thin mare, sold at an auction in Louisiana. When she was reluctant to load in a trailer, the owner made a halter of barbed wire, tied her to the trailer, pulled her half a mile down the road, shot her in the head and left her in a ditch. (She survived, came to HfH for rehabilitation and now is living happily in a pasture close to our ranch in Hitchcock) After two and a half years and a zillion letters from all over the world to the District Attorney, the owner, father of several children and a “horse trainer,” admitted he was guilty and received a probated sentence, which was nothing more than, “Ya’ll don’t be doin’ that no more, ya’ hear?”
Jason Meduna, former owner of the Three Strikes Ranch in Nebraska, killed countless horses, starved hundreds more, claimed his neighbors were poisoning them (I’m still searching for the type of poison that causes starvation, massive worm infestations and snow-shoe hooves), spent 20 months in jail and was set free to wander around Wyoming. Think he has an ounce of remorse for his deeds? Do you really think he learned anything?
Montana Large Animal Sanctuary and Rescue – we pulled 1,200 animals out of that hellhole in the middle of winter, starved, too weak to walk, complete lack of even the basic level of care. To this day, no one has had to answer to a single judicial official about the indescribable horror those animals went through or the endless death we witnessed. Oh, the DA is very proud of his case file. It’s right up there on his bookcase. The bad guys can be found down at the coffee shop.
Habitat for Horses is one humane organization out of hundreds across this country that deal with the victims of animal abuse on a daily basis. There isn’t a single active animal rescue organization that doesn’t have a horror story they could share, nor one that doesn’t look back in revolting disgust at a decision from the weak-kneed, “couldn’t care less” attitude of the judicial system.
I well remember talking with the Assistant DA in the Naysa case as he explained the delay in taking the case to trial, “We have a murder case, two rapes, I don’t know how many assaults. These animal cases just get pushed back.” As much as I tried to explain it to him, he wasn’t interested. “Have you checked on his kids?” I asked. The blank look was all the response I needed.
Animal abusers have no empathy. They see nothing wrong with setting fire to a cat, throwing a puppy out the car window or stabbing a horse. To animal abusers, there is a sick sense of joy in causing pain.
What the studies show is that when they no longer find enjoyment in beating a dog to death, their next step is a baby or a spouse, or even taking the opportunity during a brief traffic encounter to beat someone senselessly. Only then does the law take it seriously.
Listen to this – animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes than non-abusers. What does that say about a logical placement of resources if the end goal is to reduce violent crimes?
The burn-out time for people employed in animal control is three years, and the “why” is simple. We can pick up the bodies, bury the remains and try to heal the physically and mentally wounded, but it doesn’t end there. We have to go out and do it again tomorrow and the next day – and far too often the same core group of people are doing the damage.
I haven’t burned out after 20 years of doing this work, but there is no doubt that I’ve become more than frustrated with the judicial system. Sure, we get the horses, but there is nothing to stop the bad guys from turning around and buying more horses. We’ve participated in civil seizures where the owner had more horses in his pasture the next day.
All any of us want is to think that our efforts will somehow make a difference in this world. Perhaps we are a bunch of tree hugging animal lovers, but I’m sick of being ignored by a judicial system that has “more important things to do.” Give me a reason to think that somewhere there is an end to this mess, that we are cleaning up the streets and putting the bad guys away. Let me hear from a prosecutor than understands how serious a case of a beaten horse can be, that knows the bad guy needs some serious therapy and not just a scolding look over the top of a Judge’s glasses.
Someone, somewhere, studied the data, looked at the system, analyzed the cause/effect, did costs analysis and came up with a way to reduce violent criminal behavior by injecting therapy into animal abuse cases. A number of states have such a program written into their laws. If the therapy works, it saves lives and turns potential criminals into future productive citizens.
If it doesn’t work, lock them up and lose the key. The life of an animal is far to precious to be destroyed by a degenerate psycho that finds happiness in causing pain and death.