Maleah Stringer

THB Photo/John P. Cleary 7/29/03 LFS Studio shots of Maleah Stringer for column.

Sometimes it seems easier to win a $500,000 lottery than to get animal abusers not only charged with abuse but punished with more than a slap on the wrist. One of the hardest is that of the abuse of horses.

There is a particular situation near Middletown that has caused outrage for years. Law enforcement has been called by concerned neighbors and people who drive on a daily basis and must witness the abuse. State veterinarians have been called to examine the horses. Yet, somehow, the owners have never been charged with animal abuse.

And no, it’s not because they are innocent. No food, no water, horses locked in tiny pens and standing up to their necks in water and mud doesn’t seem to be enough to get any help for these poor creatures.

Another case: dead horses in the field, no food, no water and bone-thin horses with sores and abscesses covering their bodies. And still nothing is done.

Please understand, it is not for the lack of trying by our local sheriff’s department. What it boils down to is, our state laws concerning animal abuse contain loopholes for abusers. There don’t seem to be too many unpleasant consequences for animal abusers other than inconvenience. And maybe, if the animals are really lucky, they get taken away. But this is only if there is a place for the animals to go.

Many people don’t realize how much it costs to feed and care for horses — or how delicate they are, which often results in veterinary care. Because of the high cost to maintain these animals, it is not unusual to find them abused and neglected. Rule of thumb: If you can’t afford financially to take care of horses, don’t get any. And if you aren’t willing to take the time necessary to care for them, don’t get them.

We need our prosecutors, judges and law enforcement to take animal abuse seriously. It is a crime, no matter how poorly our animal abuse laws are written. Whether we want to admit it, animal abuse is a link to human crime. People who abuse animals more often than not abuse humans as well.

It is a cycle of violence that must be stopped but is often dropped to the bottom of the totem pole in order of “importance.” The excuses are many: lack of staff, lack of money and lack of jail space.

If you are tired of driving by fields/farms and seeing horses in abusive situations, call or write your local prosecutors’ offices, state senators and representatives asking for tougher laws for animal abusers. Remember your vote — or lack thereof — is power. Use it — use your voice for those who have no voice. Speak up for abused animals.

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Our Christmas wish list for Animal Care and Control: clay cat litter, canned cat and dog food, paper towels, cleaning supplies, cat toys, towels and newspapers.

Maleah Stringer, program director of Anderson Animal Care and Control, is also president of the Animal Protection League. She can be reached at maleahstringer@aol.com.

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