It's early September, which means that the latest round of pet and animal magazines have hit the stores and vet clinics. As I browse through, I'm drawn to the large number of images of beautiful cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, horses, rats and so on. And I'm thinking to myself, “How could anyone want to hurt these amazing animals?”
But sadly, as we all know, it happens. And it's disheartening to learn that it's been happening more and more commonly. I've been reading comments and heard in discussions with pet owners that “something must be done” to prevent animal abuse from happening. Yet nothing happens, until now.
Paw Justice is an organisation set up to encourage New Zealanders to stand up for those who don't have a voice, and tell Parliament that the sentences awarded to animal abusers need to be harder, longer and actually enforced. Jeffrey Hurring is a 19-year-old man who took more than 30 minutes to kill a young Jack Russell terrier, Diesel, by pouring petrol down his throat, choking him, standing on his neck, and finally dispatching the dog with a few whacks to the head with a garden spade. All in front of a group of young children.
He received the longest sentence given for animal abuse in New Zealand to date – 1 year's jail time. The current minimum sentence for animal abuse is 6 months' jail time, and/or a fine (of up to $25,000 – this has never been given), although many abusers are only given community service and ordered to pay court and occasionally veterinary costs. The maximum sentence is 3 years' jail time. Hurring received his sentence in February this year. Now his lawyer is looking to appeal the sentence and have it reduced, based on Hurring's age and lack of previous convictions. The appeals Justice in this case has yet to rule.
From what I can gather, there is no precedent in New Zealand yet for the maximum sentence (3 years' jail and the $25,000 fine) to be given in cases of animal abuse. But I do know that the majority of New Zealanders would be ashamed to know that apparently there is no judge willing to set the precedent.
So, Paw Justice needs a million signatures from New Zealanders with which to lobby Parliament to change the laws for animal abusers. We know that people who abuse animals often go on to abuse humans, especially children, so I'm encouraging everyone to get behind this initiative and spread the word. Animal abuse will not be tolerated!
Veterinary nurse Rochelle Hawthorn is a co-director of The Pet Hub, a website created as a first stop for New Zealand pet owners looking for animal articles and product reviews, and to share ideas and experiences. It's also on Facebook.
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