Last Tuesday, many Patch sites in San Mateo County reported on a $5,000 reward being offered by the Peninsula Humane Society for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever abandoned two dogs in San Bruno, reportedly found in the worst condition the shelter’s veterinary and cruelty investigation staff have ever seen.
San Mateo local editor Laura Dudnick reported that the dogs, unable to walk, received pain medication immediately. But due to their medical conditions, the staff veterinarian determined that euthanasia was the only humane option, and the animals were euthanized later that day.
One dog had a compound fracture of the front left leg with an exposed bone stump rounded at the edges. The remnant of the fractured leg was stuck to the body by severe matting. The dog was also missing its front right paw.
The second dog had a fracture of the rear left leg and his front legs were extremely bowed, indicating long term malnourishment.
The staff veterinarian and investigator were certain both dogs had been suffering for months, possibly more than a year.
“This is tragic,” humane society spokesman Scott Delucchi said. “We are deeply saddened to know these dogs lived this way for some time and sickened to know their owner apparently didn’t seek help, but appears to have tossed them out like trash. We are as outraged as we would expect the public to be,” he said.
How should animals owners who treat their dogs and cats with apparent neglect be treated if they are caught? Animal cruelty charges in the state of California are considered either misdemeanors or felonies.
Intentional abuse occurs when an animal is physically abused. Intentional neglect occurs when an animal is deprived of food, water, shelter, or veterinary services.
Although there are over 50 California laws that specifically deal with the mistreatment of animals, there is one primary law that regulates animal abuse neglect -- Penal Code 597, which prohibits:
- maliciously, intentionally, or cruelly maiming, mutilating, torturing or wounding a living animal, or depriving an animal of necessary food, drink, or shelter.
Penalties vary for those convicted. Misdemeanor convictions can bring up to a year in the county jail and a $20,000 fine.
Felony convictions generally face 16 months to three years in a California prison and the same fine.
In February 2010, California Senator Dean Florez proposed a bill that would require convicted animal abusers to register their name, picture, address, and place of employment with law enforcement agencies that would then publish the information on the Internet. Ultimately, state legislators defeated SB 1277.
One Web site - Petabuse.com - already offers a type of online registry, with listings of animal offenders and their crimes.
Studies indicate animal abusers often go on to abuse humans, sometimes children. Do you believe that? Have you ever experienced a situation like this?
We asked PHS spokesman Scott Delucchi for his opinion.
"Our organization’s hope would be that animal cruelty cases are treated seriously, given the facts that folks who abuse and mistreat animals are also likely to harm people and show a general discard for life or lack of self-control," says Delucchi. "And, we absolutely feel these cases are treated seriously - by police, the Sherriff’s Office (to the small extent they get involved in these cases) and to a larger extent by the District Attorney’s Office.
"We don’t see the same approach in other parts of the state or county, and for that, we feel fortunate and think of our DA’s Office as an extremely supportive partner in these cases. We think and care far more about this than we do about actual penalties assigned."
What are your thoughts? Is there ever justification for mis-treating an animal? Is discipline just carried too far sometimes? Should animal abusers be treated any differently than those who abuse human beings? Should fines and incarceration times be increased?
Weigh in. Let us know what you think in the comments.