Justice or injustice for animals in the United States?

IFAW volunteer with #216 in the Arkansas emergency animal shelter. c. IFAWOn 7 November, 2011 Pam Thomas from Arkansas was arrested on cruelty charges and a search and seizure warrant allowed rescuers to seize 176 dogs from her premises.  

During the two-year investigation prior to the arrest, investigators had received numerous complaints regarding the living conditions, medical issues and mistreatment of these animals housed on her property. Thomas was ultimately charged with 6 felony counts and 12 misdemeanors.

I know what these animals went through because I was there.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare sent teams of responders to assist in the seizure and to help provide care in the form of veterinary treatment, supportive care and lots of love and attention for these poor, neglected dogs who’d spent their lives in cages cranking out puppy after puppy. I saw the sore eyes, the matted coats, the dead puppies in trash cans and filthy conditions.

The emotional conditions of these dogs were heartbreaking to see. It was there that I met and fell in love with #216 – a skinny little Yorkie with bad teeth and bad knees that’d been used as a breeder. 

Money, staff and other resources went into treating and sheltering all these dogs, helping with the case prosecution and finding these dogs new, loving homes. It had to be done and we all worked hard to do it (and teared up a bit in the process).

A year later, Thomas went to trial to face justice for the cruelties she’d imposed upon these animals. “Finally,” I thought. “This cruel and greedy person will get the punishment she deserves.” But on November 5th she was convicted of only 6 misdemeanors which carry only a maximum fine of $150 for each of the charges for which she was found guilty.

It amazes and distresses me that in a country as great as ours, horrible crimes against living, sentient beings go unpunished – or barely acknowledged by our justice system.

The Thomas case just shines more light on the injustice of the states’ justice systems, in that Pam Thomas can abuse and neglect 176 plus dogs repeatedly over the years and only get an $800 fine.

In the UK a man named Philip Davies was found guilty of 52 counts of animal cruelty for mistreating 16 horses in Edgworth.

He was sentenced to 300 hours community work, ordered to pay £85,000 costs and banned from keeping horses for life.

Now that’s justice.

How is it we are so far behind?

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has released a paper that ranks states by their animal cruelty laws.

Take a look at where your state ranks and why.

And speak up!

Can you believe that in Kentucky, veterinarians are prohibited from reporting suspected cruelty or animal fighting?

Look at voting records for your state representatives on animal cruelty issues and consider those records when you vote.

You can easily find it here: https://www.hslf.org/humanescorecard/

If someone wants to set up business as a puppy mill in your community, attend the town meeting and object. Take the time to report neglect and abuse to your local animal shelter or humane society.

By everyone working together, we can make lives better for the animals that live with us in the States.

Those of us who deal with animal cruelty on a daily basis have to focus on our successes and not the failures. But that doesn’t mean we have to stop trying to get justice for animals that are exploited or mistreated and neither does the American public.

By the way, # 216 (now Macy) enjoys going to work with me each day and coworkers spoil her to pieces.

That’s the way it should be. 


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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy