Animal abuse is a serious crime and is linked to other violent crimes in society. Cruelty to animals it is not a minor problem and it does not occur in isolated incidents. In fact, animal cruelty is the number one predictor of future violent crimes against humans. Why else would the FBI track animal cruelty cases so closely? The strange thing is that despite the importance of these cases in federal circles, U.S. state laws have been slow to implement legislative changes to update these statues. It is a sad truth that up until recently, most animal cruelty crimes in the state of Pennsylvania, for instance, were charged merely as a summary offense. This meant that no matter how cruel or violent the behaviour, or how tortured and hurt the animal was, the crime was categorized similar to loitering and minor traffic violations. Thankfully, with the enactment of “Libre’s Law,” these crimes are now chargeable as serious felony offenses. Prior to this enactment, Pennsylvania lagged other states and was only one of three other U.S. states without tougher laws on animal cruelty. While this change signifies an important leap forward against animal cruelty crimes, it has been a long time coming. So, what prompted this change?
The story of Libre; a severely abused Boston terrier puppy, four months old at the time and his heartwarming story that led to the decision to get tougher on animal cruelty crimes and the recent passage of “Libre’s Law.” Libre, like many other abused animals, came from a puppy mill. He was found by a deliveryman who noticed Libre in a tiny cage and barely alive. Libre was living in deplorable conditions and had been severely abused. The deliveryman convinced the breeder to let him take Libre away and rushed him straight to a rescue clinic. Libre was dehydrated, starving, and suffering from mange and his skin was covered in blood blisters and maggots. He was literally within hours of death when the deliveryman rescued him. Despite the unthinkable suffering that Libre has endured, he is now healthy and happy, and living in a loving home. His guardian posted Libre’s story on Facebook, which generated over one million “likes.” Libre’s story is an inspiration to animal lovers and lobbyists to fight for justice.
And so, Libre’s Law was born and is Pennsylvania’s new animal-cruelty legislation that was signed into law earlier this year. Libre’s paw print was also inked onto the measure. In Pennsylvania, animal abuse is now considered a felony crime in circumstances including: neglect of an animal, intentional ill-treatment and beating, torture or aggravated treatment that leads to serious bodily injury or results in the death of an animal. Since animal cruelty seldom occurs as an isolated incident, these stronger penalties will provide an opportunity for the criminal justice system to identify potentially dangerous people. This new justice system can intervene in the cycle of abuse and prevent future acts of violence against animals, children, women, or any other vulnerable human being.
Across the globe, England has also joined the crusade against animal cruelty and is in the process of updating their laws to match other countries like Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Ireland. England will increase their animal abuse penalties from six months to five years of jail time. The previous lighter punishment caused uproar; brutally beating, choking, or stabbing an animal surely warrants more than six months of jail time! The good news is that British parliament agrees and is proposing not only to increase these sentences, but convicted animal abusers will also receive stiffer fines and can be banned from owning animals. Regrettably, federal animal cruelty laws in Canada have remained unchanged for over a century, and contain many loopholes that allow animal abusers to avoid prosecution. Canada needs a drastic update to the language of its animal cruelty statutes.
While it may seem that the changes in the United States and around the world are long overdue, undoubtedly, things are moving in the right direction. Libre’s story, along with many others, have inspired citizens and legislative officials to start taking these crimes seriously. Punishments amounting to minor fines and light punishments had no effect on deterring those found guilty of crimes against animals. It is time for a change and for countries to take a tougher stance on animal cruelty crimes. Animal abuse is more common than people think and animal abusers are statistically more likely to commit violent crimes against humans.
Please share the story of Libre, a name that means “free” or “liberty” in Spanish, and was given to this special dog by his guardian. Always remember to contact your local authorities and speak up if you ever suspect a case of animal abuse.