Domestic animal neglect should carry the same punishment as “neglect of child” in Florida

    First of all criminal offenses in Florida charged as “Neglect of a Child” are classified as felonies. Where the neglect or abuse does not result in great bodily harm (or permanent disability or disfigurement), the charge is a third degree felony, with penalties of up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation and a $5,000 fine.

    Where great bodily harm occurs, the charge is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison or 15 years probation and a $10,000 fine.

    Under Florida Statute § 828.12, it is a first-degree misdemeanor to treat an animal with cruelty or in an inhumane manner.

    It is a third-degree felony to intentionally cause an animal’s cruel death or to intentionally cause the animal to experience excessive or repetitive infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering.

    The crime of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child is classified as a First Degree Felony and is assigned a Level 10 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.

    If convicted of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child, a judge is required to impose a minimum sentence of 13 years in prison absent grounds to impose a downward departure sentence and can also impose any combination of the following penalties:
    •Up to Life in prison.
    •Up to Life on probation.
    •Up to $10,000 in fines.

    Currently, a violent crime only qualifies as such if the victim of the crime is a human being. This means that an act of violence committed against an animal – no matter how egregious – is not technically considered a violent crime, and it is not punished as such.

    Animals are sentient beings with the ability to feel a range of emotions, and they are harmed both physically and psychologically by violent abuse, much as human beings are. They deserve to be treated under the law as the complex creatures that they are.

    Animal abuse is strongly linked with other forms of abuse, such as domestic violence and child abuse.

    By classifying animal abuse as a violent crime and tracking and punishing it accordingly, we will protect both helpless animals and the people animal abusers are more likely to abuse. While it is incredibly important to appropriately punish animal abusers this change would play an even larger role in the way we regard animals in our society.

    When we consider the harm done to animals as equal to the harm done to members of our own species, we can begin to change cultural perceptions of animals and one day upgrade their status from being property to being individuals in their own right. It is only when this conscious change is made that we can hope to see a real change in the way that people treat and view animals. It’s not only an upgrade in the law, but an upgrade in our own values.
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