Target: New Zealand Judiciary system
Goal: Follow Parliament’s directions to raise the maximum sentence for those convicted of the abuse of animals
In 2010 Parliament voted unanimously to increase the maximum jail sentence for animal abuse from three to five years in New Zealand. They wanted to send a message that animal abuse was a serious offence and would not be tolerated. Fines and community work are generally sentences reserved for minor criminal cases, yet in some of the worst document cases of animal abuse they have been the only punishment.
The New Zealand Herald has done a study comparing the sentencing of some of the worst cases of animal abuse before and after the maximum sentence was raised. In 2009 a man was sentenced to one year in prison after he was found guilty of killing his dog by strangling, pouring petrol and stuffing a pillow case down its throat. That is one-third of the maximum penalty under the old guidelines, and on appeal his prison time was reduced to 10 months. Recently, still under the old law, two men were sentenced to six months home detention and 300 hours of community service after a neighborly dispute ended in the brutal mass shooting of 33 dogs, the youngest of which were only three weeks old.
Once the new law was put into effect, a man convicted of bludgeoning 23 seals to death was sentenced to two years in jail, and on appeal reduced to eight months of home detention. In September, a man was sentenced to 350 hours of community service for failing to meet the physical needs of 125 cows which died or had to be put down from malnutrition.
These sentences are so similar it is not discernible that the law has changed at all, even in some of the worst cases of animal abuse in recent history. The need for harsher punishment is not only to protect the animals. In many of the cases, those convicted of animal abuse have previously been warned and given multiple opportunities to change, but their behavior persists.
Numerous studies show links between animal cruelty and violence against humans. Punishing these criminals before their crimes escalate could be crucial to one day ending animal abuse and potentially sparing countless people from violence. Sign the petition to demand New Zealand judges start sentencing crimes of animal abuse appropriately.
The recent change in sentencing law for cases of animal abuse should have been a precursor for monumental change. Instead, the punishment for the abuse of animals remains as lenient as has ever been. Crimes that should receive the maximum time in jail have received only community service or home detention.
These mild punishments are sending the message that the mistreatment of animals is insignificant. It creates an outlet for these criminals to continue the cycle of abuse; some even will extend to violence against humans. Please remember the implications a harsher punishment for abuse could result in and consider using the harsher tactics afforded to you.
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Photo credit: Melinwonderland via Flickr.