Alot of public attention and resources have been directed in recent years toward eradicating the tragic problem of child abuse and neglect. And more recently several Valley officials have been targeting another tragic problem: the abuse and neglect of animals.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio started several years ago by announcing he was making investigating such reports a priority. He’s also introduced animal care into his jail correctional programs.
Now County Attorney Andrew Thomas has announced formation of a Law Enforcement for Animal Protection task force aimed at improving the handling of animal cruelty cases by police. The message is clear: If you mistreat an animal in Maricopa County, you are risking severe penalties, including time behind bars.
We view LEAP as a great leap forward.
Thomas used three recent cases as examples of how animal abusers will be handled in the future. In one case, three young men face felony charges for tying a cat to a rope and dragging it behind their car. In another, a Valley man faces six felony counts for poisoning neighbors’ dogs. And a Valley woman faces felony and misdemeanor counts for leaving her dog tied to a chain that was so tight it cut into the animal’s neck muscles.
Unfortunately, crimes against animals have been treated much like crimes against children were treated a few years ago. That is, with way too much leniency. The mentality of yesteryear, that children essentially are parents’ property to do with as they please, is how much of law enforcement still views animals today. The lackadaisical official attitude abets irresponsible pet ownership and cruel treatment of animals.
Thomas and the more than two dozen Valley law enforcement and animal welfare agencies that are part of LEAP intend to change that, and it’s about time. Valley pet owners who’ve been way too casual about their responsibilities toward their pet, and others who think inflicting pain on helpless animals is funny or somehow excusable better sit up and take notice.
Either take proper care of your pet — including giving it the love and attention it craves and deserves — or give it to someone who will. And if you’re tempted to do rope tricks with a cat, think also about what you’ll be doing to pass the time behind bars. Remember, Sheriff Joe’s jails don’t have many frills, and Tent City is hotter than Hades this time of year.