Animal Crimes and Punishment

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Many times when Newswatch 16 covers a story about animal cruelty you, our viewers, speak out about the punishments the convicted animal abusers should receive.

As we followed an SPCA Humane Officer for a day, she says for some cases you're right. The punishments should be a bit tougher.

We've seen the images of dogs and cats abused and neglected. Many are injured with wounds, broken bones and frightened. And for others, it's unfortunately too late.

After we air these stories, our viewers speak up.

"I have a great idea for that guy who duct-taped that dog. I say tar and feather that man the way they used to to the bootleggers back in the early 40s, late 30s," said one viewer.

"So the clown that threw the pit bull off the cliff only got house arrest and can't keep dogs. Well, what they should do is take him out and throw him off a cliff and not let him keep dogs for the rest of his life," said another viewer.

"I have a comment about that poor emaciated black dog you showed on the 11 o'clock news. How could that owner get just an $800 fine and five days in jail? That little dog will never be the same", said a viewer.

Elizabeth Anderson is the SPCA Humane Officer of Monroe County. For many animals, she's likely considered "Saint Elizabeth", because she's the person who investigates animal abuse, rescues the animals and prosecutes the offenders.

"I got into humane law 19 years ago for that reason, because I wanted the system to take these cases seriously. I didn't want a judge to say, 'it's just a dog'," said Anderson.

We followed Officer Anderson for a day to see how she investigates alleged animal crimes. Some calls she goes on, no one is home and she posts a notice on the door, like one allegation that a dog was living in a basement surrounded by feces in East Stroudsburg. The letter is letting the people know she'll be coming back.

In other cases, like a suspected case of a man not being able to afford to get veterinary care to his dogs, Officer Anderson found a man with 13 puppies.  He later agreed to surrender the pups to the SPCA.

Then there are other cases, like a case in Northumberland County where the owners of a pit bull admitted to throwing the sick dog over an embankment and leaving it for dead. The dog survived but is blind and doesn't hear well. The owners pleaded guilty and were sentenced to fines and two years of probation - during which time they can't own an animal.

One of the owners is sentenced to 90 days house arrest.

Officer Anderson believes in some cases, the punishments convicted animal abusers receive here in Pennsylvania should be tougher.

"I think there should be more of a willingness to order incarceration," said Anderson.

Officer Anderson says right now, if a person is convicted of abusing or neglecting an animal, they are fined up to $750 per summary offense and 90 days in jail.

If a person kills an animal, it's a misdemeanor offense that carries up to two years jail time. Officer Anderson wants that punishment to be up to five years.

She'd also like to see the animal never to go back to the care of the convicted abuser.

In some circumstances, that happens. So when it does, Officer Anderson says she would like the court to grant humane officers more permission to make sure the animal stays protected.

"If you're going to put that animal back in the same situation - over my objection - at least give me the right to inspect, the right to monitor, to do many of the same things you might see in a human child abuse case," said Officer Anderson.

Officer Anderson says sometimes a judge has denied her request to inspect the home because it wasn't specifically stated in the crimes code for cruelty to animals.

Officer Anderson would like to see inspections become mandatory.

"Unless we opt out for some particular reason, I think it should be normal standard operating procedure," said Officer Anderson.

Officer Anderson says if the humane officer finds that abuse is continuing, the convicted abuser should no longer have the right to own an animal. Something that doesn't always happen, but she believes should.

"If you don't want to see this episode happen again, take away the ability to make it happen again," said Officer Anderson.

Officer Anderson says her suggestions are only a start. The judges who impose a sentence must follow guidelines according to the law.

Those guidelines - and the law - can be changed by state legislators who need to hear from you.

You can contact your local legislators by clicking here.

You can also give support to current bills to protect animals in Pennsylvania by clicking here.


  • Drama

    All abuser should really get treated the way they treat their pets If they kill their pets then they should get killed

  • michelle

    people who abuse animals are not human but animals themselves and should do up to 10 years behind bars with some of the worst criminals on the planet. i bet they would bark then………

  • Jackie Bates Myers

    They should be punished to the max .treated like they did to the animal then .have to donate to animal abuse foundations.also take to shelter and have to clean up cages of the animals there .After that cage them and wear a sign I’m a animal abuser.Put on the street of their town where they live for all to see .

  • Bill

    So a chief of police sexually abuses a witness, keeps his pension, gets a misdemeanor and no ones up in arms. But if someone abuses a dog everyone agrees they should get 5 years and be fined 10 grand. While the punishment should fit the crime, it doesn’t always work this way.

    • kristy

      I love animals period. Sadly they are disgusting people. Yes people of the law make disgusting mistakes, too. The difference it gets brushed under the rug. I don’t agree with getting his pension or keeping his job. However, it was brushed under the rug, because of who he is. This story is about animal cruelty. If a police officer abused his pet, it would also be brushed under the rug. Animals can’t speak back and stand up for themselves, but people can fight back with the law. They can open their mouths and tell others. Sadly, animals can’t tell their story. I pray for her recovery, which may be a lifetime and pray she becomes a strong woman because of it.

  • Kelani Kline

    What about the farm animals and the “Ag-Gag” bills that states are looking to make into laws (Pennsylvania is still considering; HB683)?! This bill would force people who expose issues related to animal cruelty regarding farm animals (and food safety issues) to be put in jail and labeled as terrorists.
    Don’t all animals deserve the same respect? Shouldn’t all abusers be punished, not just the ones who hurt dogs and cats?
    **I think ALL abusers should face harsher penalties!

  • akatomed

    My dogs are not. ‘Like’ my kids… They ARE my kids. I adopted them and gave them a loving home. If someone hurt them… The perpetrator better receive harsh punishment to fit the crime of hurting a living, loving being.
    I’m not above taking the justice into my own hands if they get away with a crime of damaging my ‘property’… Animals are more than property. They’re defenseless and need our protection.

    • Nick

      It’s not fair to the animals what these so called human beings do to them, they can’t speak or defend themselves I think they should charge any person who hurts the animals they should get years jail time and over $10,000 in fines and never be able to own a pet ever again.

  • Joe & Elaine

    Animal abuse is out hand because of the lack of punishment for the abusers. First time abusers should be fined $3000.00 and 60 days in jail not probation, and not be permitted to own animals again. The $3000.00 should then be given to the animal shelter or the vet if the animal is injured to that point to cover the expenses. If they cannot pay the fine then the jail sentence should be increased to 1 year, no ifs, ands, or buts… The only thing an animal wants is love, and they return the love 100 fold…

  • Donna

    Anyone who can torture and abuse a defenseless animal has the capacity to do it to a human too. Punishment should be far more than a slap on the wrist. Where are the law makers?

  • Glenda

    an eye for an eye and since dogs are so much smaller than abusers…abusers should suffer twice as much as what they inflicted on the animal and permanent jailtime with maximum costs and perhaps they may learn and the parts of the abusers body that caused the injuries should suffer permanent paralysis.

  • J

    The people who abuse animals deserve to be abused in the same way, maybe even worse. I hate people who do this. An eye for an eye. That’s the way it should be.

  • Pugsley

    The article said: “Officer Anderson says right now, if a person is convicted of abusing or neglecting an animal, they are fined up to $750 per summary offense and 90 days in jail” PLEASE NOTE THE “UP TO”. Rarely does a person get charged the $750 and/or spend time in jail. Bottom line: The laws are totally inadequate, the humane officer training is inadequate and many humane officers are not capable of putting together a prosecutable case and presenting it as such. Add to the mix the magistrates and judges who don’t fully understand or care about the meager laws we have to protect animals. So what do you end up with? PA as one of the best states in which to be an animal abuser.

  • Valerie Eisenhuth

    Yes I feel that there should be more of a punishment for these people. But its really no different than the laws they have for people. A person can threaten school of kids and teachers and say they are going to kill them and threaten a public business which is two felony charges and only get 9 to 23 months in jail and be released on parole in 11 months. Can you please tell me the difference cause I really don’t see one. Pennsylvania laws stink and that’s why people do the things they do cause they get a slap on the wrist and its over with.

  • ME

    All abusers should get some jail time and we need to start a registry, preferably a national one, of people charged with cruelty.

Comments are closed.

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