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"Animals deserve protection, but Andre Robinson doesn't deserve jail time"

Despite admirable intentions, prosecution of animal abuse is unnecessarily aggressive

Andre Robinson may go to prison after he kicked a stray cat with enough force to send it flying about 20 feet. He then posted the video online.

Though 22-year-old Robinson and similar animal abusers certainly deserve to be penalized for their behavior, their punishment should be proportionate to their crime. But recently, new law enforcement policies and courtroom decisions suggest the increasing influence of animal activists is generating aggressive reactions to animal abuse.

This week, the FBI announced it is now tracking animal abuse and reclassified the crime as a “crime against society,” which puts it at the same level as murder, drug trafficking, arson and assault.

In a similar move, New York City’s police department created an Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad in January, resulting in a 250 percent increase in arrests for animal abuse. Nationwide, cases of animal abuse are resulting in significant jail time, as the protection of animals becomes an increasingly mainstream issue.

The growing concern for animals is admirable, considering their inherent vulnerability. Animal cruelty is deplorable, and often indicative of greater pathological problems. The FBI is wise to track animal abuse with greater vigilance, because they can use that information to better understand crimes like domestic violence and be alerted to potential future offenders.

But with limited resources and an ongoing battle against all sorts of crime – particularly those involving other humans – the use of officers’ time and energy in combatting animal abuse is certainly questionable.

And more problematically, though animal abuse certainly merits punishment, but the rising number of jail sentences handed out for animal abuse is excessive and unnecessary.

Imprisonment is not only an extreme punishment that exceeds the severity of the crime in question, but sending a person to jail has the potential for long-term consequences – consequences that, in these cases, outweigh the merits of strict penalization.

If a person has committed a crime that indicates he or she is already a danger to society – to fellow humans – then jail is a necessary measure. The risks inherent in that decision, like the potential development of gang affiliations and the detrimental effects of being removed from school or employment, are outweighed by the need for discipline and (ideally) rehabilitation.

Punishment for animal abuse is necessary, of course. It’s a crime for a reason. Those who commit it should be stuck with a criminal record, face monetary consequences and eliminate the possibility of leniency if future crimes are committed.

That’s the sort of penalization Robinson should face – harsh but not extreme, offering long-term consequences without sending abusers to prison. After all, if Robinson had kicked a human rather than a cat, would he be facing jail time?


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