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Taking a leaf out of their book

Maneka Gandhi | New Delhi |

My life has gone by in waiting for a change to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Thousands of animals are being killed across the country and we need an instrument to punish them. It will, in turn, protect humans as well — anyone who is mean to an animal is going to be mean to children and other humans. By way of an example, acid is thrown on women by men but it is never the other way round. We get rightfully upset. But has one ever wondered where does this acid come from? Hundreds of vegetable/fruit sellers, who sell their wares on carts, keep a bottle of acid to throw on hungry cows and bulls that come looking for food. That acid is freely sold in order to hurt animals. It then finds its way to hurt women.

In civilised countries, the outrage over wanton cruelty to animals is so intense that governments immediately make laws. In the US, citizens and legislators across the nation often come together to ensure that the deaths of abused animals have not been in vain. Among the many state laws dealing directly with animal abuse and neglect, many honour the victims who inspired their passage. Here are some such landmarks in US legislation,

* Pasado’s Law, Washington, signed by Governor Mike Lowery, 1994: Pasado, the donkey who lived in a Seattle park, died after three teenagers sneaked into his pasture one night and beat him with tree branches. When he fell, they tied a noose around his neck and pulled him up a tree, strangling him to death. The three boys were charged with breaking and entering — because it carried a greater sentence than beating an animal to death. Congressmen Steve Van Luven and Sandra Romero sponsored Pasado’s Law, whereby any intentional act of animal cruelty would become a felony.

* Buster’s Law, New York, signed by Governor George E Pataki, 1999: In 1997, 16-year-old Chester Williamson doused Buster, a cat, with kerosene and set him on fire. This prompted Assemblyman James Tedisco to introduce legislation to make animal cruelty a felony in New York State. The bill was appropriately named “Buster’s Bill” in 1999. On June 7 2000, Pataki signed another bill strengthening Buster’s Law, requiring anyone convicted under that law to forfeit the abused animal. In May 2008, Williamson pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a mentally disabled 12-year-old girl.

* Gucci’s Law, Alabama, signed by Governor Don Siegelman, 2000: A 12-week-old puppy was beaten, hung and set on fire by a group of teenagers. The dog, named Gucci, survived but got severely burnt. The adult abuser was sentenced to six months in jail, while the two juvenile abusers were sentenced to community service.  The case drew international outrage. Gucci’s law, or the Pet Protection Act, made cruelty to a pet dog or cat, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

* Loco’s Law, Texas, signed by Governor Rick Perry, 2000: Loco was an eight-month old puppy stolen from his home and thrown days later onto the porch. His eyes had been gouged out. “Loco’s Law” made severe acts of cruelty punishable as state jail felonies on the first offence. Loco was present at the bill signing and added his own paw print.

* Rose-Tu’s Law, Oregon, signed by Governor John Kitzhaber, 2001: On 21 December 1999, a woman and child visiting Oregon Zoo witnessed Fred Marion, an elephant keeper, aggressively strike a six-year-old female elephant named Rose-Tu with an elephant hook. On 17 April 2000, the same keeper abused Rose-Tu by attempting to insert his ankush into her anus. Investigation showed that Rose-Tu suffered more than 170 wounds.

Animal protection law upgrades — named the Rose-Tu Law — made Oregon the first state in the US to legally recognise the link between animal abuse and violence towards people. The law increased the penalties for Animal Abuse from a misdemeanour to a felony. Rose-Tu’s Law also established more objective definitions for “physical injury” in an animal and the crime of sexual assault of an animal.

* Dexter’s Law, Wyoming, signed by Governor Dave Freudenthal, 2003: On 16 February 2001,Travis Wilson kidnapped Dexter, his girlfriend’s basset hound, and beat him severely, cut off his legs, burned him and threw the remains onto his girlfriend’s driveway. The Wyoming statute makes it a felony, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine up to $5,000, if someone “knowingly and with intent to cause death, injury or undue suffering, cruelly beats, tortures, torments, injures or mutilates an animal resulting in the death or required euthanasia of the animal.”

* Groucho Act, West Virginia, signed by Governor Bob Wise, 2003: In June 2001, Michael Musulin allegedly hit a woman and her dog while driving drunk. Groucho, the dog, was killed and the woman was injured. The “Groucho Act,” added a felony provision — punishable by one to three years in jail and a fine between $1,000 and $5,000 — for torturing or maliciously killing an animal. It removed a statutory cap on damages limiting compensation to the “assessed value” of an injured or killed dog. It required courts to order and review mental health evaluations before granting probation for convicted offenders. It also prohibited those convicted under the cruelty laws from possessing or living with any animal for five years (in the case of misdemeanours) or 15 years (in felony cases).

*  Scruffy’s and Magnum’s Law, Kansas, signed by Governor Kathleen Sebelius, 2006: In June 1997, Marcus Rodriguez, Lance Arsenault, Richard Golubski, and Jose Gutierrez stole a pet dog, Scruffy, who was shot with a pellet gun, placed in a plastic bag, set on fire while still alive, and beaten repeatedly with a shovel. They videotaped their crime. A few years later an 11-week-old Labrador puppy, Magnum, was discovered in a trash bin. He had a broken leg, cuts, and chemical burns over much of his body. He had been bound with wire and one paw had been stuffed into his mouth. Citizen anger intensified to pass “Scruffy’s/Magnum’s Law” in 2006, including felony provisions for animal cruelty and requiring those convicted of animal cruelty to serve at least 30 days in jail and pay a fine from $500 to $5,000. In jail, they must have a psychological evaluation and complete an anger management course.

* Henry’s Law, Utah, signed by Governor Jon Huntsman Jr, 2008: On 25 May 2006, Marc Vincent while arguing with his wife put her dog into an oven at 200 degrees. Henry, a Chihuahua puppy, lost an eye, suffered burns, his claws fused together from the heat, and he was never able to walk again. “Henry’s Law” adds a felony provision in Utah law for deliberate torture of a cat or a dog.

* Romeo’s Law, Kentucky, signed by Governor Steve Beshear, 2008: On 31 May 2007, Ronald Turner severely beat his Labrador puppy, Romeo. A video made by his neighbour shows Turner “choking the dog several times, throwing the dog up against the tree, rolling the doghouse over the dog, then slamming himself on the dog.” State Senator Tom Buford and Representative Stan Lee sponsored “Romeo’s Law” to make dog or cat torture a felony. Anyone convicted under Romeo’s Law can face up to five years in prison.

* Justin’s Law, Suffolk County, New York, signed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, 2010: Justin, a two-year-old male Doberman, was locked inside a bedroom in a foreclosed house in Centereach, New York and left to die. When the dog was found by Suffolk County officers in May 2010, he was covered in faeces and nearly dead from starvation. Justin was the inspiration behind Suffolk County’s historic animal abuser registry legislation — the first of its kind in the world – requiring that anyone convicted of animal abuse will appear on a publicly accessible and searchable database for five years. Animal abuse offenders must provide their name, address and photograph for posting in the online database. Those who fail to register will be subject to a $1,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail.

* Cooney’s Law, Nevada, signed by Governor Brian Sandoval, 2011: In October 2010, Raymond Rios used a box cutter to cut open his beagle Cooney’s abdomen and watched as she ran around the room, bleeding, her intestines falling out. Cooney died of shock and blood loss. “Cooney’s Law” made heinous acts of cruelty against companion animals a felony. Under the new law, a person who “wilfully and maliciously” tortures or unjustifiably maims, mutilates or kills a cat, dog or animal “kept for companionship or pleasure” will be guilty of a category D felony, and a category C felony if the act is done in order to “threaten, intimidate or terrorise another person.”

* Nitro’s Law, Ohio, signed by Governor John Kasich, 2013: In October 2008, authorities found dead and starving dogs locked inside filthy kennels at Steve Croley’s High Caliber K-9 “training facility.” Eight dogs had starved to death, including a Rottweiler named Nitro. Twelve others were barely alive. With the passage of “Nitro’s Law,” a breeder, kennel owner or employee who abuses an animal can be charged with a felony.

n Puppy Doe’s Law, Massachusetts, signed by Governor Deval Patrick, 2014:  In August 2013, a puppy, nicknamed “Puppy Doe” was discovered on the streets of Quincy. She had been beaten, tortured, and starved so severely that she had to be euthanised. A post-mortem showed she had suffered a long period of severe abuse. The perpetrator, Radoslaw Czerkawski, has also been charged with stealing $130,000 from a 95-year-old woman with dementia.

“Puppy Doe’s Law”, passed on 18 November 2014, increased the maximum prison time for an animal cruelty conviction from five to seven years and increased the maximum fine from $2,500 to $5,000. It created enhanced penalties for repeat offenders — up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000. It requires veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty.

Shaktiman should have alerted the government to redo the PCA Act or, at the very least, stop horses from being used in the police. Millions of people protested but the government ignored them. On the other hand, two businessmen go round Kerala paying people to kill friendly dogs and display their bodies but the state government is paralysed. What will they do when these businessmen start paying to export orphan children?