August 02, 2010

Declaring Freedom for Animals from Harm, Illogic and Wrongheadedness

From the Animal Legal Defense Fund:

Posted by Dana Campbell, ALDF Attorney on August 2nd, 2010

“We hold these truths to be self-evident” begins the famous line from the Declaration of Independence. I’ve got my own version: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that one and one is two, that the sky is blue, and that abused animals should not be returned to their abusers. Yet I must live in an enlightened animal law bubble to think the last concept to be self-evident, because plenty of others do not think it so obvious, or even consider the idea at all. What am I talking about? Judges and attorneys who see nothing wrong with returning animals back to defendants who plead guilty to animal cruelty or are convicted of it after a trial, thus putting the animals right back in harm’s way again, sometimes after having recovered in foster homes from their horrific ordeals.

In what I hope does not portend a trend, twice this year in separate New York counties (Erie and St. Lawrence) judges went so far as to order animals to be returned to their abuser before trial, and unbelievably, without even having a hearing on the matter! That’s right, no inquiry as to the basis for the criminal charges supporting the animal’s seizure from the abuser, even though the law provides for such in the form of a bond or forfeiture hearing. No effort made by the court to even ascertain whether the conditions had improved since the charges were filed and were now adequate to support the return of animals to their accused abuser. Such judicial arrogance is not only legally improper, it is shockingly inappropriate.

One way to combat this is to pass legislation taking away discretion to hand back abused animals, in the form of mandatory forfeiture of all animals upon conviction, and prohibiting convicted abusers from having contact with animals, as Oregon and several other states have done. ALDF has model laws that may be used as samples for legislation here.

Surely I am not the only one who thinks returning animals to their tormenters is self-evidently wrong?

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