With recent charges against three people in Santa Rosa for firing a paintball at a dog tied in the back of a pick-up truck, news media has again focused on cruelty to animals in the USA. There have been recent cases in Michigan, Georgia, Hawaii and Texas ranging from cock-fighting to choking a puppy in a domestic violence case.
Cruelty cases not only focus on situations of direct violence towards animal but also can include neglect or not doing what is needed to properly care for an animal. Not providing shade or water in hot weather; not keeping the animal’s living area clean; not feeding enough, or sufficiently nutritious food; or waiting too long for euthanasia and allowing the animal to suffer; are all common types of cruelty we see. Rohnert Park’s last cruelty case was when a person locked her five Pit bulls into her RV with a single bag of open dog food and left. The dogs were discovered after several days – thin, filthy and dehydrated; but fortunately, all survived. Much less frequently seen are the cases of direct physical violence towards an animal, at least locally.
A relatively new animal rights group, Animal Wellness Action, is hoping to get an important piece of federal legislation passed that will greatly help in the fight against animal cruelty. Founded in 2018 by Wayne Pacelle, the former head of the Humane Society of the United States, this group is focusing on promoting and enforcing good animal protection laws. Their thinking is, first on electing people who will support laws that protect animals, present good laws that will protect animals and then push for the funding for the enforcement of those laws. The newest law they are pushing is H.R. 8052, the Animal Cruelty Enforcement (ACE) Act, that would create an official Animal Cruelty Crimes Unit at the U.S. Dept. of Justice to better enforce existing federal animal cruelty laws.
“I’m pleased to join my colleague Senator Braun (R-IN) to introduce this legislation to protect animal welfare. We need to make sure laws related to serious negligence and cruelty toward animals are clear and enforceable, and that the Department of Justice has the dedicated resources it needs to prosecute them,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) who joined in sponsoring this bipartisan bill. The ACE Act was just introduced last August and is now in its first committee, the House Committee on the Judiciary, and needs all the support it can muster.
I’m sure this bill faces an uphill battle as it goes through the approval process and I’ll try to keep you apprised of its status and how you can help. “For now,” says Marty Irby, Executive Director of Animal Wellness Action, “we hope the U.S. Representatives from California and U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla will join our efforts to pass the Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act that would crack down on animal cruelty.” If you feel so moved, it would be nice to write to your representatives and encourage them to support the ACE Act. No reason not to get it on their radar as an issue that their constituents find important!
Crimes against animals have always been overlooked as low priority and enforcement has always been underfunded. Passing this law is a step in the direction of change and should be applauded and assisted by all of us who care about animals.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.