Those who cannot speak for themselves depend on others to stand up for them. A recent incident brings up questions about whether or not we humans are doing our job.
On August 6 2013, a Washington man, Christopher Dillingham, prepared for the rapture by strapping explosives made from fireworks powder to the body of his three year old labrador and setting them off. He was taken into custody on the charges of the use of an explosive device for an unlawful purpose, a fireworks violation, and reckless endangerment. Animal cruelty was added on a almost a day later as an afterthought.
The tragic death of this animal questions our definition of animal cruelty and the adequacy of our laws. One definition, often used by authorities such as judges and humane law enforcement officials, is found in Black’s Law Dictionary, a legal resource used lawyers, law students, and others:
The infliction of physical pain, suffering, or death upon an animal, when not necessary for purposes of training or discipline or (in the case of death) to procure food or to release the animal from incurable suffering, but done wantonly, for mere sport, for the indulgence of a cruel and vindictive temper, or with reckless indifference to its pain.
According to this definition, and the scrutiny of many, the crime that was committed was not animal cruelty because the dog died instantly and did not suffer.
This reasoning in itself is cruel indifference, turning our heads from the fact that an innocent life was lost. If someone took it upon themselves to strap explosives to a child and set them off, the world would rage about that person’s state of mind and the various ways they should be punished. However, as the victim was a mere animal, we sigh and go about our day.
Philosopher Jeremy Bentham once said that when deciding on a being’s rights, “the question is not ‘Can they reason?’ nor ‘Can they talk?’ but ‘Can they suffer?’” An animal does not need to suffer for a crime to be recognized as animal cruelty, but the fact that it can suffer shows that it deserves, if not equal rights, then equal consideration.
Animals may not possess our “higher conscience”. The rights they ask for are different than ours. They do not need to vote, drive cars, or get married. What they need and deserve is the right to live and die peacefully.
Black’s Law Dictionary: http://thelawdictionary.org/cruelty-to-animals/#ixzz2fT2Kl07Z