Henry’s law doesn’t deserve special session

By By Tiara Fuller

By Tiara Fuller

It seems everyone wants his or her fifteen minutes of fame these days. Even our own governor can’t resist the temptation. Gov. Jon Huntsman is cashing in on the Michael Vick controversy and has called the Utah State Legislature to a special emergency session.

Are our senators being called to discuss some important pressing issue? No — they are being called to debate an animal-torture law and school-district splits.

The animal-torture law — which aims to make animal cruelty a felony on the first offense — was voted on last session and didn’t pass. Now, thanks to Gov. Huntsman, S.B. 1001, also known as Henry’s Law — named for a dog that survived being beaten by a leaf blower and put in an oven — has been resubmitted for vote.

I believe — as most everyone does — that people should not be able to torture animals or engage in acts of cruelty against them.

What I have a hard time accepting is the public outcry and publicity this bill is generating. Why is it that a bill for the suffering of animals is such an urgent issue that needs voting on now? State law already contains a wide range of protections against cruelty and neglect toward animals. Can’t this bill wait for a regular session?

I’d like to know why society wants such a harsh punishment for a first-time offender of animal rights when many times we let first offenses of child abusers, pedophiles and rapists off with a slap on the wrist or allow them to walk on an abbreviated sentences.

Why aren’t special sessions of the Legislature being called for these innocents?

The timing of this bill just reeks of political maneuvering taking advantage of the Michael Vick controversy instead of having a genuine concern for our companion animals.

People who torture animals are sick and need to be punished. In fact, if such perpetrators are not punished severely, chances are they will progress to far worse crimes.

It is well known that if someone abuses or tortures animals, it is a very strong indicator that they have been or will be violent toward spouses, children and other people.

In a recent study, 99 percent of animal abusers had convictions for other crimes. This study also revealed that 61.5 percent of animal abusers had assaulted a human, as well. That same study found that 100 percent of people who committed sexual assault and homicide had abused animals.

Obviously, something must be done to prevent these crimes. However, I have serious concerns about the passage of this bill.

To any reasonable person, this bill seems like a no-brainer. Of course we should protect animals. I don’t question the bill so much as I question the ways the judicial system will implement it.

Over the past couple of years liberal judges have been finding ways to legislate from the bench. I think that this bill is going to cause no end of trouble for pet owners and breeders.

Although exceptions have been provided in previous proposals, I am afraid that a bill such as this will also encumber practices in animal husbandry or criminalize procedures preformed by zookeepers and veterinarians.

Currently, it is a crime not to provide animals necessary sustenance, food, water, shelter and protection from severe weather.

I will not be surprised if some activist judge in Utah takes the definition of “torture” a bit further. According to Cal Penal Code 599b, which imposes “criminal liability on negligent as well as intentional overworking, overdriving or torturing of animals,” torture is defined as “unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering (that) is caused or permitted.”

There are definitely some PETA and other animal-rights extremists out there who will try to twist this into a hunting, fishing and trapping debate and possibly even start attacking the meat-packing industry and ranchers on the grounds that they torture the animals raised for our food.

An even worse possibility is that activists will turn this into an animal “autonomy” issue.

How would you feel if someone were to bring a lawsuit against you on behalf of your dog, claiming that you were violating its rights because you kept him contained on your property when he “wants” to run free?

This may sound extreme, but there are believers out there who feel that house pets are treated no better than slaves.

I support anti-animal-cruelty laws and believe that offenders need to be punished, but clear lines need to be drawn so as to not let the law run wild.

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