Thursday, January 3, 2013

Grow a Pair and Speak for the Animals

On November 18, 2012, two severely emaciated American Pit Bull Terriers were surrendered to Detroit Bully Corps.  Angel died of starvation, and Shiner is expected to make a complete recovery. 

Their 18-year-old owner, Lisa Marie Precourt, pleaded guilty to two counts of animal cruelty charges on January 2 after waiving her right to trial and right to counsel.  She faces a maximum sentence of one year and 93 days in jail, plus fines and community service if she is convicted.  It is expected that she will be sentenced to probation, pay restitution, and be barred from owning pets.

One of two articles about the case states:

[...] Michigan has some of the toughest animal abuse laws in the country, but getting cities to enforce them on the local level has been a challenge.

This problem is not unique to Michigan, no matter how good (or bad) the laws are.  What it comes down to is cities not pursuing justice.  I've seen many cases where the laws allow for a decent punishment and yet the judge hands out a soft slap on the wrist.  I've also seen many cases where plea deals resulted in punishment far less than the defendant could – and should – have received.  Thankfully this is not always the case – some judges do give the max, sometimes even stating they wish they could give them a harsher punishment.  But …

What is the point of having these laws and their associated punishments when District Attorneys and judges don't or won't give the max?  What kind of statement do the more lenient punishments make?

Yes, each and every case is unique, and sometimes there are facts/circumstances that need to be taken into consideration.  Precourt’s case is one of those times.  At age 18, she is living on her own, going to school, and working two jobs.  She now admits that she never should have had the dogs in the first place.  Only time will tell if she is being sincere, or if she’s blowing smoke.  I truly hope it’s the former.

Precourt’s case aside, we have a serious problem with the justice system and the sentences handed down in cases of animal abuse, cruelty and/or neglect.  In some states, the problem lies with the laws themselves – either the penalties are too lenient, or laws don’t even exist in the first place.  It’s hard to sentence offenders to punishment when either a law and/or an appropriate penalty do not exist.

In states with appropriate laws and penalties, it’s the justice system at fault.  District Attorneys cut plea deals.  Judges give sentences so lenient that it’s nothing more than a joke.  The taxpayers foot the bill for a case (investigation + trial (plus often the cost of incarceration of the offender)) that results in what amounts to a waste of time and money.

The bottom line: State legislatures need to put tough laws with tough penalties into place.  Cities need to pursue true justice.  Taxpayers need to let their elected officials know this is what they want – and be prepared to act (e.g. vote them out of office) when they don’t do it.

Come on everyone, grow a pair and speak for the animals.