Animal abuse still needs attention

By By Anastasia Niedrich

By Anastasia Niedrich

Bodies were hurled from bridges as high as five stories and crushed upon impact as they fell on top of other rotting bodies in mass graves. Live beings were tied up in sacks and drowned, burned, driven over or beaten to death. Some were told their sick loved ones would receive euthanasia and die peacefully. In actuality, some died slow, torturous deaths, buried alive.

With what I’ve described thus far, you’re probably thinking that I must be referring to the Holocaust of the WWII era. Unfortunately, I’m not.

I’m referring to a more recent event — the Puerto Rican pet holocaust.

I don’t believe I’ve ever been as appalled as I was when I read descriptions of what some animals in Puerto Rico were put through before they painfully met their ends. I honestly became physically ill just reading and thinking about it. I became even sicker when I imagined that any of those pets could have been my own.

As horrific as these slaughters are, they’re regrettably the rule rather than the exception in Puerto Rico, a U.S. Commonwealth — a pseudo-state with some of the same rights but fewer rights overall. Puerto Rico is not renowned for its care or kindness for animals. Exemplifying this are Puerto Rico’s legal cockfights, its lack of comprehensive spay/neuter programs and what is known as “Dead Dog Beach,” where local teens usually torture and kill animals for “fun” before dumping their carcasses there.

Some claim that Animal Control Solutions, a taxpayer-financed government contractor that Puerto Rico hired to handle the disposal of sick and dead pets, is the entity to blame for this holocaust, as it has purportedly brutally killed as many as 1,000 pets daily and “discarded their corpses wherever it was convenient” via methods I previously described, according to The Associated Press. Animal Control Solutions is now under investigation and is being sued for $22.5 million dollars.

Although tragic, reprehensible, abhorrent, horrendous and grand in scale, animal atrocities of this magnitude are rare. What are all too common, though, are animal abuse, neglect, torture and suffering that surround us every day — yes, even here in the good ol’ USA, including the Beehive State. In fact, the Animal Legal Defense Fund recently named Utah as the nation’s worst state for protecting animals from events similar to the Puerto Rican pet holocaust.

Although some members of the Utah Legislature and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. courageously tried to right this wrong with the attempted passage of the bill known as Henry’s law (which would have made animal torture punishable as a felony under some circumstances), the bill failed to become law last session and special session. Utah is one of only seven states that does not allow felony punishment of animal abusers.

Puerto Rico is not a U.S. state and is therefore subject to different laws than a state like Utah is. But even in Puerto Rico, animal abuse is punishable as a felony under their animal cruelty law 439. I find it ridiculous that a U.S. state essentially condones animal abuse by not punishing it as a felony while Puerto Rico, one of the animal abuse and torture centers of the world, does. Situations like this make me wish the government believed in the eye for an eye principle as a supplementing force along with felony protections and legislation. If animal abusers want to drive over puppies until they’re dead, they should be prepared to be driven over themselves.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Right now, our furry friends are being done a grave injustice in Utah as well as Puerto Rico. I can only hope that those who perpetrated these egregious, inhumane and immoral acts against pets in Puerto Rico are brought to justice by Puerto Rico’s courts and legal system — while those who would seek to do the same in Utah are held accountable as well.

Events like this happen everywhere, every day. Such events serve as examples of some of the many reasons that Utah should provide for felony prosecution and punishment for people who choose to harm Utah’s most vulnerable residents — pets. The next time Henry’s law comes up for passage, I hope we all have a more supportive perspective.

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