Vail Valley Voices: Animal cruelty just the start |

Vail Valley Voices: Animal cruelty just the start

David Dillon
Vail, CO, Colorado

You may have heard about the case of Steven Clay Romero and Buddy, the German shepherd.

-If not, Romero was charged with felony animal cruelty in Buddy’s dragging death on Colorado’s National Monument.

-According to federal prosecutors, Romero abducted the dog from a neighbor, tied him by his neck to the back of his pickup truck and dragged him up the winding Monument roads to his death. It is a cinch the dog suffered terribly before he died.

Online petitions surfaced demanding that Romero get the maximum penalty allowed of three years in prison, a year’s probation and a $100,000 fine.

It seems to me that state and federal penalties for animal cruelty are not near stiff enough. Romero and others like him are simply not fit to live freely in a civilized society.

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There is nothing lower than a person who would abuse a child, an elderly person or an animal. It takes the most cowardly or vicious spirit to victimize the most vulnerable targets.

Animal cruelty is on its face horrific enough, but it is also indicative of greater dangers to come. Those who torture or kill animals are often sociopaths incapable of empathy. Most who commit these sorts of crimes graduate on to child abuse, sexual sadism, domestic abuse, rape and murder. So slapping these offenders on the wrists serves no one.

Margaret Mead noted, “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.”

Serial killers Disalvo, Bundy, Berkowitz, Cunanan and Dahmer all had a childhood history of animal torture or murder. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold bragged about mutilating animals before gunning down 13 people in the Columbine High massacre.

Patrick Sherrill, who killed 14 coworkers at a post office in Oklahoma, the incident that inspired the phrase “going postal,” stole neighborhood pets so he could watch his more vicious dog mutilate and kill them.

Child rapist and killer Earl Kenneth Shriner put firecrackers in dogs’ rectums and hanged cats before raping and/or killing two 7-year-olds and a 16-year-old.

Executed serial killer Carroll Edward Cole started young, first strangling a puppy, then drowning a 10-year-old classmate before going on to murder over 35 people.

Brenda Spencer, who went on a shooting spree at a San Diego elementary school, killing two children and injuring many others, liked to set fire to the tails of dogs and cats.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. The FBI and criminal profile studies have found a compelling and irrefutable link between animal cruelty and higher levels of violent crime against humans.

So if you think this is a subject to treat lightly, think again. Albert Schweitzer once said: “Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives.”

When I told the story of Buddy to one person, his reaction was “Well, how can you expect people in a state where they kill animals for fun to respect domestic pets? If they don’t care about the pain and death their guns cause defenseless wildlife, why would they care about the suffering of a dog or cat?”

I would sincerely hope that this is not true and that there is a very distinct difference between hunting and torturing animals for fun.

In any case, current state and federal penalties for animal abuse are shamefully insufficient.

Many states still classify animal cruelty as a misdemeanor. Some consider animals to be a pet owner’s property, so killing them is akin to chopping down a tree in your own backyard. It is as primitive and uncivilized as the days in which slaves were regarded as property rather than as human beings.

The maximum penalty for aggravated animal abuse federally is three years and in the most stringent of states, five years. Most are much less. The fact that Michael Vick could only be sentenced to three years, received only 23 months and was released after 19 months sickens me.

The way a person or society treats its animals is indicative of how civilized that person or society is.

We need tougher sentencing laws for animal cruelty if we are to truly be as civilized a nation as we think we are.

It only takes a few minutes to write your representatives in the House and Senate. Tell the locals that animal cruelty offenses should be classified as felonies, and then let Washington know that stiffer federal sentences are called for.

If you care about the welfare of animals, I encourage you to give those few minutes to a good cause.

David Dillon is an Eagle resident.

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