Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Animal Welfare Laws: Abuse and Neglect part I

Ahhhhhh. Finally. Some time to blog. A squall line just passed through tranquil Aiken, SC, shutting down the power for miles around. I know it’s a “squall line” because I was watching actual LIVE TV right before the power went off. The news was saying the “squall line had passed”. The weather was not watching the news, or if it was, it was not going to bow to the puny power of the local news guy and either turned around and came back just for spite or hung around because Aiken is so lovely. This does explain why my Dad sent me a cryptic e-mail at 2 pm saying if I need to go to a hotel to avoid tornadoes, charge it to his credit card. Although last time a hurricane hit my house I did not see it coming and would not have been in a hotel. But it was sweet to offer anyway.

Either way, the TV and lights all went out and the house got silent. Except for 3 things: 1) the panting of the damn dog who is thunder and rain phobic, 2) the soft sounds of The Boxer from Hell continually passing rancid gas and 3) the comforting glow of my lap-top. Because, baby, laptops have batteries and I still have a computer!!! Granted, I am cut off from my hard won AT&T wireless DSL which promised to be faithful through thick and thin yet bounced at the first sign of a power failure, but at least I have some light and can get some work done because heaven forbid I just sit quietly or go to sleep with the damn dog still panting and trying to crawl over the crate of the methane powered Boxer from Hell. And since I have no idea how long laptop batteries last and can’t find my flashlight anywhere, I’d better get to the subject at hand. Or lap. Or whatever.

Animal Abuse and Neglect. Animal abuse and neglect cases are tricky. Cruelty cases are often much easier, because most of us can agree on what is cruel, but unfortunately, like most laws, the codes of many states on animal welfare seem to have been written on a laptop while the power was out and leave too much to the discretions of law enforcement officers. I will eventually insert some examples of state laws (here) but that will have to wait until I have actual internet access.

First, let me say that in the last 10-20 years we have come light-years toward better legal protections for animals. When I was young, there wasn’t much in the way of animal cruelty law enforcement at all. When I was younger, but not as young, cruelty laws were starting to be enforced, but neglect cases were unheard of. We did not have “animal hoarders” and “seizures”. We had the Krazy Kat Lady down the road and most enforcement was done under the human health codes and not separate animal welfare codes. The power just came back on. Thank you Aiken Electric Co-op and you poor men and women out there in the rain making sure my 4 loyal readers have something to see in the next few days!

In the olden days, when Krazy Kat lady down the street had 450 cats in her 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch house they were taken under the auspices of the health department or a local code limiting the number of house pets one may have. The focus was on protecting human health and welfare. It was not on saving the cats. Now we have animal welfare codes. Well we may have always had them, but they were never enforced, and the focus is on saving the animals—not the humans. But more importantly, the old codes were civil and only quasi-criminal in nature. The new codes are criminal. Criminal prosecutions bring in all those bothersome protections of the Constitution. Old fashioned administrative actions do not. So in order to save animals, you have to protect the constitutional rights of the animal owners. This makes things harder and makes people very passionate and emotional and upset about who will have the power to enforce and how the power will be used. KKL got herself a posse. Or a lynch mob. It depends on whether the TV and internet are working, I guess.

And the power just went on, so I’ll post this and see what happens:>

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