Saturday, October 22, 2011

Applied Law

"The cruelty laws don't apply in this case."
The above words were communicated in an email yesterday regarding the situation in Zanesville, Ohio where six exotic animals currently being held at the Columbus Zoo are being considered for return to what was clearly an abusive and neglectful "home."
The organization that the writer of the email represents is clearly working hard on the issue of exotic animal-owning and is seeking bans on such ownership in Ohio and elsewhere.
That is to the organization's credit.
However, getting such bans passed into law may sound much easier than it actually is.
Banning anything carries the responsibilities and costs of enforcement, as well as it raises issues of American free will and "choice."
There are, after all, those people of great wealth and resources who can well afford the responsible caring of animals -- even exotic ones. Though they represent a tiny minority of those who actually and impulsively purchase big cats, wolves, monkeys and other exotics (usually as adorable "babies" that the people later abandon), the very few responsible and knowledgeable people would also be impacted by any bans.
Personally speaking, I am all for the bans because I don't believe any private citizen needs to "own" exotic animals, even those who can afford to (especially when we are killing millions of domesticated cats and dogs in shelters every year --  animals conditioned over centuries to live as "pets" in our homes).  However, in playing "Devil's Advocate", I am merely pointing to reasons why actual bans on almost anything are extremely difficult to get passed into law.  Even if they do get passed, enforcement then becomes the issue, as usually the operations and activities go underground (as witness our virtually unwinnable "war on drugs"). 
But, as alluded to yesterday, we actually do have animal cruelty laws already on the books.
In the case of the Ohio couple who owned 56 exotic animals, including lions, Bengal Tigers, leopards, monkeys, bears, wolves and others, they have actually been convicted of animal cruelty in the past -- starving horses and cattle.
Two days ago, the husband of the couple committed suicide, but not before "releasing" all but six of the animals out of their cages.
The story hit national headlines when 48 lions, tigers, bears and wolves were then shot to death in claim to "protect the human community."  (An escaped monkey has not been found and is presumed to have been eaten by one of the cats, but there is no evidence to that claim.  There was also a report about a missing donkey.)
But, yesterday, as reported in USA Today (and this journal,) the surviving leopards, bear and monkey are being considered for return to the surviving spouse of the couple!
Perhaps I was a bit harsh in condemnation of Marion Thompson saying that she should be arrested for past animal cruelty and doesn't deserve any sympathy.
But, it is truly shocking that under the circumstances any of the surviving (and apparently "thin") animals could be returned to her.
Photos and videos of the dead lions, tigers and wolves showed animals that appeared emaciated. The living ones are thin.   Then there are the convictions for past starvation of horses and cattle.
Additionally, the property is reportedly in foreclosure and the couple owes $60,000 in back taxes.
The couple was also in the process of divorce and Mrs. Thompson had already left her husband (and presumably, the animals).  Perhaps this was a contributory reason for Mr. Thompson's suicide and even the releasing of the animals since he was apparently the only one "caring" for them.  Perhaps he feared they would all starve to death in the cages.
Between both, the past circumstances and prior convictions for animals cruelty and the present situation of extreme financial duress and debt, it seems there is no way that any of the surviving six animals could be considered for return to Marion Thompson.
Apparently, this woman can barely afford to care for a goldfish, let alone, horses, monkeys, leopards and a grizzly bear.
One has to wonder where the brains are of people like "animal expert" Jack Hanna, Sheriff Matt Lutz, politicians and other officials and even the major animal protection organizations.
Jack Hanna's quotes of Ms. Thompson's "stress," his "sympathies" for her and his half promise of returning the animals to her fly in the face of all common sense, practicality and any kind of justice, responsibility or caring for the animals.
The reality is that most animal hoarders are "distraught" when their captive prisoners are finally taken away from them -- though rarely does that actually occur.
The animal cruelty laws already on the books absolutely should and need to be applied here.
With the lone exception of animals deliberately being starved to death in so-called "scientific research" all owners are required to provide adequate food and shelter for their animals."
That did not occur at the Thompson property with the evidence of past starvation of horses and cattle and near starvation of present animals.
Several news sources reported yesterday that since this story hit national news, numerous exotic animal facilities and sanctuaries have offered to take the six surviving animals.  That is what now needs to happen.
We may or may not be able to get bans passed that outlaw the ownership of exotic pets.
But, surely, there needs to be way to prevent these six surviving animals from being returned to a situation of imprisonment and clear lack of resources to properly care for them.
As mere pedestrian without the proper names of people to contact about this situation or the resources to reach out to many, I am not in position of power to actually prevent the surviving leopards, monkey and grizzly bear being returned to Thompson.
But, it is critical that any and all with any power or influence over animal welfare do everything possible to prevent this from occurring -- even if that means filing a law suit.
As said yesterday, the return of these pitiful and already victimized animals to Marion Thompson would represent an absolute travesty of justice and complete mockery and snub of the animal cruelty laws already on the books.
Its not enough to "think of one's animals as kids."
One also has to be able to adequately feed and provide proper shelter for one's "kids" and animals.
That is already law and it needs to be actually applied. -- Especially in Zanesville, Ohio following the horrors of what has already occurred. 
We and the vulnerable animals surely do not need a repeat.  -- PCA

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