The Critical Component of Law in Animal Welfare

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Written by Becky Monroe

“Animal Welfare” the words alone imply kindness to animals, but implication is not enough. Neither is a desire or empathy towards animal suffering. Without actual law, any acts, no matter how volatile and cruel, are simply admissible.

I think the majority of people have compassion towards domestic animals. While it happens too often, maliciousness towards domestic animals like dogs, cats and rabbits is something most people agree is cruel and should be illegal. Many of us have witnessed what we believed to be the inhumane treatment of an animal and took steps to do something about it. Whether it was a dog in a hot car, a dog in a yard in freezing temperatures with frozen water and dismal shelter, or a dog tethered to a tree day in and day out, we have all witnessed varying acts of what we deem neglectful treatment towards animals and we passionately want to do something about it and make sure that animal is cared for appropriately.

We believe what we are doing is righteous because our dogs share our home, our bed and sometimes even a seat at the dinner table. We insure every day that they are comfortable, not in pain and have full stomachs — sometimes putting their needs above our own.

To us, the treatment of animals is never up for debate — it is simply a way of life.

However, sadly, what we come to realize is that it is NOT a way of life for everyone, but without laws in place even the most heinous of acts towards animals can go without punishment or even consequence.

“Innocent until proven guilty” is the American way and crimes that perpetrate cruelty to animals are no different. In fact, many times, crimes against animals are impracticable to punish legally.

While new animal welfare laws are often being introduced in legislation and others are being re-written to be more extensive, there are numerous hurdles for them to overcome.

For every piece of legislation intended to provide safety to animals or improve their well-being there is a group lobbying against it. It took the Michael Vick case to make dog fighting a federal offense. It has taken decades to improve the lives of breeding dogs and we still are not there.

Things that the common voter would find to be the abominable treatment of animals are still legal in many states, just recently they created law that makes crushing an animal illegal – JUST RECENTLY.

Perhaps, one of the biggest hurdles for animal legislation is that MOST PEOPLE ASSUME acts of cruelty towards animals are already illegal. It is not until they call in an incident and realize there is nothing the local authorities can do because there is no law in the books that makes it a crime.

We want to believe that people are inherently good and I do, personally, believe that to be true. However, I have spent enough years in animal welfare to know with 100% certainty that the ones who are not good, the ones who have no compassion for animals, can be downright evil and without laws in the books, these people not only partake in cruel and neglectful behaviors towards animals, they never have to pay the price for doing so. They walk away — able to do it again. 

Just yesterday, a friend posted about the testing done on Beagles. It had been made public through what I would consider a political ploy, but nonetheless, all of a sudden we see a surge of people outraged by the treatment of these lab Beagles.

I explained to my friend that unnecessary, cruel testing on Beagles (and many other animals) has been going on forever and that animal advocates have been fighting to stop it for years. The Beagle Freedom Project has made this very topic their organization’s mission. She was astounded that something so awful could be legal.

Perhaps, that is the part of the real problem with animal welfare law — too many people assume that “xyz cruelty” is already illegal, so they fail to recognize the importance of putting actual laws into place.

From puppy mills to lab testing to animal neglect — there are so many areas of animal welfare that are left without the necessary lawful guidelines to keep animals safe.

And even when there are laws in place, they tend to consistently fall short of total protection for the animals. There always seems to be cracks in which perpetrators find their way out.

Many of us are watching a critical trial play out in Iowa dealing with a puppy miller known to have reprehensible conditions at his facilities along with sick and dying dogs. As this case continues to make the news, the general public is asking how is he not in jail for the cruelty and neglect he has inflicted on the dogs.

Sadly, in the arena of puppy mills, there are numerous reasons he is not in jail (yet). But, in general, the standards of care in mass breeding facilities are so minimal and the governing body, the USDA, so short staffed and often willing to look the other way, provide puppy millers with the perfect opportunity to continue these odious operations legally.

A few years back, a neighbor my parents knew of went to jail. He had two large breed dogs living in his home. Days would go by and no one would see the animals outside nor would they see anyone in the home. Numerous neighbors called the police and animal services concerned for the dogs well-being.

Animal services found that the girlfriend of the neighbor was coming every few days to feed the dogs and make sure they had water. Regardless of the cruel implications of that, according to local ordinances, that was all that was necessary.

I describe all these situations as a way to raise awareness — not to just the cruelty to animals, but more so to the importance of having laws in place to PREVENT the cruelty and when necessary to PUNISH those adequately for the pain they have inflicted on the helpless, voiceless animal.

It is imperative that as citizens who believe in compassion towards animals that we don’t assume acts of cruelty are already illegal or take for granted that someone else is doing something about them.

We live in very uncertain political times and now, more than ever, it is critical that we reach out to our representatives and let them know what legislation is important to us. Kindness to all living creatures makes a strong foundation for a world full of love and peace, but we CANNOT simply rest on these as beliefs, we must pursue them into law. 

**Just a reminder – if you would like to share your Mill Survivor’s story, I would love to publish in on Tails and Truths! Just email me at** 


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