Kansas and regional news

Kansas and regional news

Public outcry over animal-cruelty cases growing

November 17, 2005


BTK didn't just kill people.

Wichita serial killer Dennis Rader admitted to police that before he ever started strangling humans, he killed dogs and cats, according to court records. That aspect of Rader's case - combined with the public outcry about the torture of a puppy found burned and bound with wires in Wichita - has lent new momentum this year to efforts to pass a felony animal-cruelty law in Kansas.

"There's been an awful lot of public expression of concern," said Patrick Hurley, a lobbyist hired by the nonprofit group Humane Kansas Legislative Network to build support for the law. "The bottom line is we want to make the really serious acts felonies, with some mandatory time" behind bars.

Kansas is one of nine states that has no felony animal-cruelty law. The crime is always a misdemeanor, no matter how heinous the act.

Hurley said he expected several bills on the subject to be introduced in the legislative session.

Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, has tried but failed every year since the late 1990s to pass a felony animal-cruelty law in response to the torture of a dog named "Scruffy" in Kansas City in 1997. He has said publicly he plans to introduce the proposal again in January.

Jeaneen Hercha, operations manager at the Lawrence Humane Society, holds a pit bull that was taken from a dog raid. Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, has tried for years to make animal-cruelty crimes a felony. He plans to try again in the 2006 session.

Jeaneen Hercha, operations manager at the Lawrence Humane Society, holds a pit bull that was taken from a dog raid. Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, has tried for years to make animal-cruelty crimes a felony. He plans to try again in the 2006 session.

Momentum on the issue grew in August when a black Labrador puppy nicknamed "Magnum" was found in Wichita covered with chemical burns and with its paws bound with wire. Other dogs with similar injuries were found in the days afterward.

Midge Grinstead, executive director of the Lawrence Humane Society, said she would like to see a felony law that targets repeat cruelty-to-animals offenders - those who are found again with large numbers of malnourished dogs in their homes. In those cases, she said, the dogs often are kept for fighting.

"It's frustrating. They're repeating it over and over again, because there's no jail time. They haven't paid the fine, they haven't paid me," she said. "There's just no teeth to it."

Fighting dogs under Kansas law is a felony, but it's difficult to prove. Grinstead said her agency has not uncovered any clear-cut dog-fighting cases in recent years, but she believes it's common.

"We're not catching them in the act," she said. "But we're catching the dogs with wounds and with scarring."


MapMadeMind 12 years, 3 months ago

We're one of only nine states without a felony animal cruelty law? I hope the law gets through. It's about time.

Jamesaust 12 years, 3 months ago

People who abuse animals are not just mean people. They are psycho time bombs with a enhanced probability of graduating to harming people. Reclassifying this crime increases the odds that such a person comes into the awareness of authorities before that point.

Calliope877 12 years, 3 months ago

Jamesaust & MapMadeMind,

I agree with both of you! It is about damn time they made cruelty to animals (especially of the severest nature like torturing, killing, and starving) a felony.

It's been proven time and time again that anyone capable of hurting or killing an animal lacks empathy for another living thing...and they'll eventually hurt or kill people. Young children and teenagers who are caught doing these things should also pay the consequences if they torture or kill animals.

costello 12 years, 3 months ago

Just a fine point: there's a difference between being psychotic and lacking empathy.

I have one son I'm adopting from foster care. He lacks empathy and has no conscience. These problems stem from severe neglect in his infancy and early childhood. I'm working with him to develop empathy and a conscience. He loves animals and wouldn't hurt them, but too many children with his diagnosis do hurt animals - and go on to hurt people. He isn't psychotic, however.

I have another son, my 20 year old bio son, who has recently begun showing signs of psychosis - paranoid delusions, hearing voices, etc.

Psychotic people are out of touch with reality. They aren't necessarily dangerous or violent to themselves or others. They don't necessarily hurt animals. Because they suffer from delusions - fixed ideas that aren't true - in some cases they may hurt others because they believe they have to to protect themselves or because voices tell them to. This isn't necessarily common, though.

When I lived in the Virgin Islands, I was told of a young man who caught a stray cat, killed it, and cut its head off. When his neighbors discovered him, he was digging into the cat's neck saying that he needed to find the wishbone so he could throw it down at the crossroads at midnight so he could be cured. Clearly he was psychotic. But there's no sign he lacked empathy. He believed he needed to kill the cat to save himself.

If you were trapped in the wilderness and starving, and you caught an animal, killed it, and ate it, no one would say you lacked empathy or that you were psychotic. They would say you did what was necessary to stay alive. In this young man's deluded worldview, he killed the cat because it was necessary to cure his illness.

Anyway a fine point but one that's important to me, because I have one psychotic son and one who is disturbed.

Jamesaust 12 years, 3 months ago

Thank you for the reminder on the distinctions among psychological disturbances. I only phrased matters in a vague (and thereby distorting) manner to make the larger point - one may be stone cold toward animals, utterly unmoved by pictures of meowing cats or tongue-slobbering puppies and still be disturbed that this type of 'precursor' action is not tainted with a greater penalty. Proponents of a harsher law should not be stereotyped as only mushy 'animals are people too' types. Knowledge that someone you know (a relative, friend, neighbor) has done something like the harm described here should chill anyone's heart just out of their own self-preservation.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 3 months ago

I especially like the "mandatory time behind bars!"

I have written here before of the need for felony cruelty to animals law. about time!

besides that, Kansas needs a service dog protection law, which includes both misdees and felony charges of interferring with a qualified service dog, or service animal.

-- and, psychopaths, now called sociopaths, lack empathy or remorse, but do not have dilusions or halucinations (psychotic). the terms can be confusing.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 3 months ago

What I've never understood is the concept of "laws without teeth". Whether we are talking sexual offenders who break the conditions of their parole, or people who don't pay child support, or repeat offenders of animal cruelty... WHY do court orders go unenforced!? I just don't get it. Laws without enforcement is lawlessness. The real reason for the repeat nature of these crimes: lack of enforcement for first-time offenders. These dog-fighting idiots sit around and show off how many citations they have to their names like raiders showing off scalps. It's a joke to these people. And yes, if this stuff goes unchecked, some of them graduate into the Dennis Rader sort of stuff: victimizing people when killing kitties is no longer fun.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 12 years, 3 months ago

First, to Costello, you have a lot to deal with. I think that your adoption of a young man who you know clearly has problems to begin with, and then trying to undo all the suffering he endured that caused those problems, is one of the nicest things I have ever encountered. People like you make this horrible world bearable. Now as to animals. I love them. We adopted a black lab and a kitty from the shelter in Topeka. We have no kids, so they are our kids. We love them, spoil them rotten, and would react like losing a son or daughter if anything were to happen to them. I really think if I caught someone mistreating an animal, like setting them on fire, binding their limbs with wire, etc. it would take every bit of self control I have and then some, to keep from shooting the bastard. Hell yes we should make mistreating animals a felony! With mandatory, lengthy sentences, with no parole or probation! This law must be passed this next session! Every one of us should either call or write our reps and senator and tell them to vote in favor of it. It takes less than 5 minutes to call their office. No matter how bad of a day you had, no matter what problems are worrying you, when you come home and open the door, and your dog, cat, or whatever comes to you with love, licks you and tells you they love you and missed you, nothing can compare to it except for children. Please call your Rep. and Senator when the session starts and tell them you want animal cruelty to be a felony in this state! Sorry I got carried away, but this is a very important bill. Thank you, Lynn

costello 12 years, 3 months ago

You're right, bearded_gnome, psycho is often used as slang for sociopath. I hadn't thought of that. I jumped right from psycho to psychotic. And, of course, you're also right that sociopaths lack empathy.

costello 12 years, 3 months ago

Thanks for your kind words, Lynn. I wish more people would adopt. A few of the children in foster care are too damaged to be saved, but most of them can grow up to be happy, productive people, if the right family can be found. It's very challenging work, though. I also love animals. I have 3 dogs and 4 cats. When I made my adoption homestudy, I specified that I wouldn't take a child who hurts animals. I got one who loves animals. I'm sure his interactions with my 4-legged companions will help in his healing. :-)

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