Every Cherokee County resident knows this area has one of the worst records in the state for animal dumping and cruelty. Volunteers with the Humane Society of Cherokee County do valiant work, but even that isn't enough to change the hearts and minds of those who see animals as little more than lawn furniture.
That's why, regardless of which side of the political aisle you fall on, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act is worthy of praise. And it also proves if they set their minds to it, Republicans and Democrats in Congress can work together in bipartisan fashion.
Earlier this year, the House and Senate passed this bill, which imposes a federal ban on animal cruelty. Any act that causes deliberate "serious bodily injury" to animals – including drowning, burning, suffocation or other violence – could buy the evildoer a stiff fine and as many as seven years behind bars. The act was sponsored by Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., in the Senate, after being introduced in the House by Ted Deutch, D.-Fla., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.
Notably, the measure also prohibits animal fighting, which covers dogs, roosters, and other animals. Production and sharing of videos depicting animal abuse is also banned. This is important, because although all states have various laws against animal cruelty, the nationwide prohibition will make it easier to prosecute cases that cover more than one jurisdiction, or that occur in locations under federal control, like airports and military bases.
President Donald Trump signed the law last week, and his action gives the law heft from a personal, as well as a political, standpoint. Trump himself doesn't own pets; he's the first president, in fact, to eschew a dog or cat in the White House. Nevertheless, he was impressed by a Belgian Malinois named Conan, who was injured in the raid on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an Islamic State leader. Trump called Conan a "tough cookie" while praising his calm demeanor and beautiful appearance, and in doing so, he echoed the sentiments shared by animal lovers, soldiers and law enforcement officers alike when it comes to the dogs with whom they live and work.
Trump mentioned Conan when he signed the bill, acknowledging the "vital role in the development, settlements, security and happiness of our country" that animals have played. And lest pragmatists worry the law goes a step too far, there are exemptions for slaughter for food; humane euthanasia in case of grave injury or terminal illness; sporting activities like trapping, hunting and fishing; scientific and medical research; and other actions that aim to "protect the life or property of a person."
It is long past time that federal officials took this step. After all, it is well-known in both the mental health and law enforcement professions that people who harm animals are very likely to graduate to human beings. Some would argue the former is just as bad as the latter. And given the record of certain miscreants in Cherokee County, we expect that law to be tested here, sooner rather than later.
As the president indicated, animals are responsible for human "happiness" in many ways. They, too, deserve that same happiness.