Animal Law Review

First Page



As society has come to recognize the sentience and intelligence of nonhuman animals, jurisdictions across the United States (U.S.) have promulgated animal protection laws. Despite the development of anti-cruelty statutes, though, states with sentence enhancement mechanisms continue to elevate criminal offenders’ sentences only if they injure human victims. This Note considers the development of anti-cruelty laws and explores how sentencing guidelines, victim injury points, and other sentence enhancement mechanisms function in U.S. criminal justice systems. It examines how multiple states treat victim injury, focusing particularly on Florida where, in October 2011, a Florida Assistant State Attorney—in what was likely the first attempt of its kind—sought to score victim injury points against an offender who brutally stabbed a dog. By looking at legislative intent, and other persuasive authority, this Note argues that courts can and should enhance the sentences of offenders who victimize animals. It contends that legislatures should clear up any statutory ambiguity by making it explicitly clear that the criminal justice system should treat animals as victims. Using history and current trends for support, this Note argues that we should award the same number of victim injury points for animals as people. It also looks at several other facets of practical application, such as which animals would qualify as victims for the purpose of victim injury points and how we can make animal victims and victim injury points a priority in the criminal justice system.



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