Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Call your legislator


Make pet torture a felony

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There's a sick individual skulking around Kentucky right now.

At 16, he sodomized a neighbor's house cat, causing fatal injuries. Before it died, the cat was returned to its owners by the teen, who bragged about what he had done.

Yes, this really happened, three summers ago in Western Kentucky. The boy pled guilty to animal cruelty and was sentenced to a year in a Northern Kentucky detention center, says Warren County Sheriff's Deputy Andy McDowell.

The youth is out now, and the deputy is concerned. Based on what happened to that cat - and to other animals the teen was suspected of mutilating - McDowell fears people may be next.

"He's about a hair away from taking his treatment of animals to children and women," the deputy says he told the judge on the case. "That's the logical progression of his illness."

The human link

McDowell is no animal-rights activist. He hunts and fishes - "all the macho things tree huggers don't like," he says.

Nevertheless, he'll be attending a Thursday rally in Frankfort to support making animal torture a felony.

"This isn't about some guy kicking his dog," McDowell says. "We have misdemeanor charges that work just fine for that.

"This bill is about identifying people who are going to go on and commit more serious crimes against humans."

Research shows there is a link. Consider a 1996 study of 45 violent and 45 nonviolent offenders in a Florida prison.

Of the violent inmates, 15 admitted to childhood cruelty against pets or strays, compared to three in the nonviolent group.

Researchers also found disturbing patterns in the nature of the cruelty.

"One violent offender, a repeat sex offender, had been convicted while an adolescent of ... sodomizing a reformatory pig," they wrote in their 2001 paper, "Childhood Cruelty to Animals and Subsequent Violence Against Humans."

"Another participant, convicted of sexual battery, described how he would throw stones and bricks at stray animals `to beat and hurt them like my parents hurt me.' According to the police report, his (human) victim's face had been severely beaten."

Bills need support

Heinous cases of animal torture are rare. But when they do happen, prosecutors should have the option of felony charges.

Kentucky Senate Bill 24 and House Bills 243 and 214 would elevate torture of domestic cats and dogs to a Class D felony. Perpetrators could receive one to five years in prison. More importantly, they would have a telling felony charge on their records.

The bills don't apply to the hunting or showing of animals, nor to the killing of them for humane purposes, among many other actions exempted from the law.

Passing this legislation should be a no-brainer. But just to make sure your lawmaker gets it, better give him a call.

Legislators' message center: (800) 372-7181. Information on Thursday's rally: www.4kentuckypets.org.

E-mail kgutierrez@enquirer.com or (859)-578-5584.




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