Animal abuse indicates urgent need for change in PA laws

Kirstin Cook, Editor-in-Chief

Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.”
Well, if you take that as the greatness of a state, there’s much to be desired from the state of Pennsylvania.
Cases of animal abuse in the area have been all over the news recently. In early March, a Pike County man named Russell Seese was accused of duct-taping the legs and mouth of his dog and leaving her without food and water, according to the Pennsylvania Human Society.
And what about last month, when a University of Scranton student was acquitted of animal cruelty for stabbing a cat to death? According to The Times-Tribune, the jury ruled that Peter Freshour killed the stray cat out of self-defense.
Because, of course, if you’re a 6-feet tall, 200-pound football player and a cat grabs onto your leg, your only option is to stab it two or three times.
The stories are sickening. And perhaps just as sickening is the fact that these evil people get away with the crimes with little more than a slap on the wrist.
To stop these vicious crimes from happening, there needs to be a serious change in Pennsylvania laws. The current animal cruelty laws are weak and heavily flawed, and are in urgent need of amendment to protect innocent animals.
According to Pennsylvania law, a person found guilty of killing, maiming or disfiguring a domestic animal belonging to someone else be can be subject to a fine of $500.
$500! There are headphones that go for that much. Think about your favorite pet. Is that how much its life is worth?
Notice, there’s no mention of jail time or anything like that. How harsh of our legal system.
Compare those penalties to the laws in nearby states. For example, New York enforces imprisonment for not more than one year, or a fine of not more than $1,000 or even both.
In New Jersey, the penalty can be a fine up to $1,000 and/or a jail term up to six months. The court can also impose a community service term of up to 30 days with an organization like the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
They’re not much, but at least they’re stricter than Pennsylvania. The punishment of these disgusting crimes needs to better equivocate to the value we have for these animals. Usually, our pets are like members of our families. So why are the consequences of murdering them so weak?
The lack of severity is just one problem with Pennsylvania animal abuse laws. Another problem is the fact that humane society officers are granted the police powers.
While this sounds like the government is giving human societies the ability to enforce the law, in reality it just turns out to be a passing off of responsibility.
First, this puts too much strain on animal advocacy groups that are already doing so much to care for abused animals and spread awareness. They’re expected to also lay down the law.
Next, there’s the issue of funding. The state granted these duties to nonprofit animal organizations without the funding for staffing and training to complete them. If these agencies are going to be doing the work, they need the money to make it happen.
We need to press our government to get the funding these agencies need to stop the atrocities against animals. Plus, we can contribute our own money to the cause.
We need to be the voice for these poor animals. If you see animal cruelty, do the right thing and report it to a local shelter. The cruelty needs to stop.