Try to change cruelty laws

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Shelby County District Judge Ron Jackson did what he had to do Friday by acquitting a man arrested for animal cruelty after authorities confiscated 181 dogs from his Columbiana home.

State law requires proof of cruelty that goes beyond neglect, and it’s up to animal advocates in the state to change it.

Lonnie Watson, owner of the home where the dogs were kept, was accused of operating a &uot;puppy mill,&uot; or an unlicensed dog breeding business.

It was argued that nobody can take good care of 181 dogs without proper training and certification.

Unfortunately, good care is not a legal requirement. The law only goes so far as to require pet owners to vaccinate their animals against rabies and to provide necessities such as food and water.

It does not require pet owners to protect animals’ skin and teeth or to provide ample living space.

According to testimony from Watson’s trial, some of his dogs showed signs of neglect such as infections, sore feet from standing on wire cages and dental problems.

The severity of the ailments depends on who you talk to, but the law does not punish a pet owner for neglecting hygiene and comfort.

Keeping 181 dogs in cramped, unclean quarters is cruel.

It’s especially cruel to force dogs to continue producing pups when their age advances or their health declines.

Hopefully, the people of the Humane Society and animal lovers everywhere can convince legislators to do the right thing