The arrival of Spuds, our new dog, was postponed a day. While chatting with his foster owner, she told us that had had decided to to report Spuds’ previous owner for animal cruelty. Good. The woman neglected the dog outrageously, as I wrote about here.
But for some reason, my mind flashed back to this post from 2013, involving a more complex animal cruelty case. It’s an ethics quiz, but I’ll be adding a poll at the end. The comments to the original post were very good.
Ethics Quiz: The Harley Tragedy
I’m sure PETA thinks this is fair; I’m not sure that I do.
Tammy Brown,47, a disabled Moon Lake, Florida woman trying to make ends meet on her $508-a-month government check, argued that she was not able to afford veterinary care for Harley, her 14-year-old dog who had a painful ear infection as well as skin problems, periodic tumors, heartworms and ear mites. Because she did not get treatment for Harley, however—the fact that she tried to treat the dog’s problems with over the counter ointments wasn’t enough to mollify the judge— Brown was convicted of felony animal cruelty. She spent more than a month in jail awaiting sentencing, and then received six months of house arrest, 300 hours of community service, three years of probation, and $1,000 in court costs. Circuit Judge William Webb also commanded, “I don’t want you to own any animals. Not even a goldfish!” (Hartley had been euthanized.)
Apparently Harley’s physical condition was shockingly poor, so much so that jurors found photos hard to look at. An Animal Services officer testified that Harley couldn’t stand up without support. The prosecutor wanted Brown imprisoned.
Has society become so animal-sensitive that it has lost its priorities?
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz…
Assuming that Harley’s lack of treatment was due to lack of resources and neglect rather than malice…
Was Tammy Brown’s sentence fair, or was it excessive and cruel?
I really don’t like this situation at all. A woman with very little in her life kept her old and beloved dog as a companion when her only realistic option was to kill him. There is no question that what she did was wrong, but the sentence seems vindictive and emotional. The judge might as well have had Tammy put down and had her buried with Harley. Now she can’t even have a cat, a canary, or a guppy. Isn’t it cruel and unusual punishment to sentence someone to loneliness?
Pet ownership is expensive, and veterinary care is shockingly costly. If the government wants to send the message that only the relatively wealthy can enjoy the benefits of a loving relationship with a dog, this certainly came through loud and clear in Florida.
I wonder what Harley would say.
Back to 2020: here’s a poll.
Pointer: ABA Journal
Facts: Tampa Bay Times