Who among us has not read about an animal abuser in the news, and desperately wished they might suffer as much as their victims? This Ohio judge is making that wish come true.
A Long Time Animal Lover
Judge Michael Cicconetti’s love of animals began when he was a child. His Dachshund mix, Herman, was his best friend. His love of animals continues today, with his elderly Bernese Mountain Dog, Kasey. And he takes that love to work with him. When animal abusers find themselves in his court, he doesn’t just deal out justice. He deals out object lessons in empathy.
His Punishments Fit The Crimes
Judge Cicconetti’s punishments have a poetic ring to them. He tries to fit them to the crimes of people he finds guilty of animal abuse. But he doesn’t dish out punishments that will cause actual harm — unlike the actions of animal abusers. The judge, of course, works within the parameters of the law. But he does want abusers to feel, intimately, the discomfort, embarrassment, and abandonment that their animals have felt. He does this by putting the abusers in a similar position as their unfortunate pets.
When a jury found one woman guilty of neglect — she kept her dog confined in its filth — he sentenced her to eight hours in a garbage dump. Said Cicconetti,
“I want you to go down to the county dump, to the landfill, and I want them to find the stinkiest, smelliest, God-awful odor place they can find in that dump and I want you to sit there for eight hours tomorrow, to think about what you did to that dog while you smell the odor.”
To another woman, who had abandoned thirty-five kittens in the woods, he had this to say:
“How would you like to be dumped off at a metro park late at night, spend the night listening to the coyotes … listening to the raccoons around you in the dark night, and sit out there in the cold not knowing where you’re going to get your next meal, not knowing when you are going to be rescued?”
In addition to fines and jail time, Judge Cicconetti sentenced this abuser to spend the night alone in a nearby woods.
We hope those two learned their lessons! In a world where abuse and neglect are rampant, it’s good to know that someone in the legal system has the backs of some of the most innocent victims.
Not Just a Voice For Animals
Judge Cicconetti doesn’t just use his creativity to help animals. He recently sentenced a young prankster to teach a lesson as well as learn one. The young man had stolen life preservers from the pier at Painesville Township Park as a joke. Judge Cicconetti, who had lost a family member to drowning, sentenced him to spend four Saturdays teaching the public about water safety.
After receiving his sentence, the young man said,
“After you saying that, it really puts it in perspective in my head. I’ve had friends of mine drown, and it is scary.”
Said Cicconetti, “I will almost bet you that this young man will never be in a courtroom again.”
And that’s the point.
This is Just the First Step
Judge Cicconetti said he came up with the idea of teaching animal abusers a lesson when he kept running into the same defendants in his court. Fines and the occasional jail time didn’t seem to be doing the trick. He thought that if he put abusers in their victims’ places, they might think twice before doing it again.
In addition to handing out unique sentences, Judge Cicconetti is working toward establishing an animal abuser registry. A registry would warn neighbors, animal shelters, and others, about the abuser’s history with animals. He would also like to see mental evaluations for people convicted of animal abuse.
Animal Protection Laws Across the Country
In the United States, the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (which has been updated as recently as 2007) is the minimum federal standard for animal protection. But over and above its provisions, laws against animal cruelty can vary widely from state to state. In 46 out of 50 states, there are felony penalties for certain kinds of animal abuse. And in California, a felony animal abuse conviction could net a life sentence, if it’s the third strike. Still, many believe that the laws don’t go far enough. Laboratory rodents, for instance, are not protected at all under the Animal Welfare Act. And conditions for food animals remain grim.
How You Can Help Protect Animals
You don’t have to be a judge or a police officer to work toward ending animal abuse. Here are a few ways anyone can get involved.
Donate or Volunteer
You can donate to, or volunteer for organizations that are working to stamp out animal abuse. The Humane Society is probably one of the best-known animal welfare organizations in the world.
At the Humane Society website, you can learn about animal cruelty laws in your state. You can also learn about Humane Society campaigns against dog fighting, puppy mills, cockfighting, and more. Also, you can find out how you can get involved with your local humane society.
Sometimes animal abuse and neglect come down to ignorance. It’s sad to say, but some people don’t know that what they’re doing to their pet is abusive. Volunteer with organizations like the Humane Society that help to teach people how to treat their animals. A little information can go a long way toward keeping pets healthy, happy, and safe.
Report Suspected Animal Abuse
If you witness or suspect animal use or neglect, report it! The Humane Society has some tips for recognizing and reporting abuse. Learn to recognize the signs of animal hoarding, lack of food, water or veterinary care, inadequate shelter, abandonment, and physical abuse. Remember, abusers won’t get caught if we don’t report them. And if enough people report animal abuse as soon as they see it, abusers will think twice before picking on an innocent animal.
Listen to Judge Cicconetti deal out some “rough justice” in the video below.