This story caught my eye this week;
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and a Boston terrier found emaciated and diseased at an animal breeding operation have signed legislation strengthening laws against animal cruelty and neglect.
The Democratic governor signed the bill with a pen before a crowd on the state Capitol lawn Wednesday before helping dip Libre’s paw in ink and stamping it on the bill. Libre was a puppy when he was found last year in Lancaster County.
Humane Society of the United States state director Kristen Tullo calls the legislation Pennsylvania’s most comprehensive animal protection package ever.
It takes effect in two months. It establishes violations up to a felony for intentionally torturing an animal or for neglect or abuse that causes severe injury or death. Dog owners could be punished for tethering under certain situations.
Animal abuse is currently a felony in limited situations.
This is one of the many things I like about Americans – they are hard core and get stuff done.
Abuse a child here or torture a dog and you’ll get a biscuit and a cup of tea. Do it in the US and you’ll not see the light of day for years.
We even let convicted killers out after a few years in many cases. In the US murderers are routinely handed sentences that are many times longer than anyone could stay alive (thus they will die in prison).
The inside of most US is no picnic by the way.
I would wager that anyone in the US reading that story this week was left feeling nothing but upbeat about it. That’s what happens when the citizens believe that there is some sense of control and some measure of justice – it leaves them feeling empowered and that the bad guys don’t win.
Now that its a felony across all states there it will (and should be) celebrated as a real victory and game changer.
And that’s precisely and exactly where British citizens need to take this.
We need to get to our equivalent of that level. We don’t have a ‘felony’ here. The most direct comparison pertinent here might be to equate it to moving these offenders from magistrates courts and to higher courts (who have far more powers).
It would be like doing that while giving judges at the courts much greater sentencing powers as well. Our additional caveat is that such offences come with the expectation of a custodial sentence (in NI they technically have much longer sentences, their problem has been judges not issuing the longer sentences often enough).
We have to ensure that a mechanism is built in to counter that culture happening here. Otherwise it gets reduced to looking superficially positive but with no substance behind it.
To answer the question in the title – Why can’t we be like this..?
We can. It wasn’t the President himself who initiated this. It was initiated and fought for from the bottom up, with advocacy, campaigning, etc.
The only real difference between the people there and those here is that Americans, generally speaking, are a great deal bolder and more overt by their very nature and are drawn anything which mirrors that. The British are generally far more reserved and introvert, which means its a great deal tougher to stir them up.
It is an absolute positive that Battersea are taking such a firm and visible stance, since last year. Their position dovetails with our position, the only difference being that we have three additional demands on top of the five year sentences.
We are now in contact with them and my position is that the head of every single organisation should be using their platform to now echo the same message.
This means the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, SSPCA etc, they should all now be standing up in unison and constantly feeding out press releases that call for the Government to act.
This issue has been neglected far too long and its embarrassing. This issue and these aims need as much advocacy as possible.
You should get right behind Battesea and you should get right behind us, since (in different ways), we are both very visibly the very sort of advocacy that is required.
People in this country are not helpless spectators in this fight. Far from it. They can muck right in and be an active part of the fight.
Just this week we were put in contact with someone that does a lot of film and media work. Even those that cant physically muck in can still be an active and not passive part of things. Donations allow us to do things and breathe life into ideas.
If give or do all that we can then there is no doubt we can be just like the US.