It depends on the offense and the state in which the crime is committed. There seems to be an even divide on whether states consider animal cruelty a felony or a misdemeanor. However, some states are working to make punishments more severe — for example, Utah has been trying to put two laws through that would increase the severity of punishments for animal abuse. Punishments can range from a fine to several years in prison.
Michael Vick is most notable offender of animals. Not only did he go to jail for several years, he received public humiliation and the consternation of entire country. People tend to view those who hurt and kill animals in a much harsher light than those who kill other people. So I would say that in addition to the justice system acting and sending people to jail, the public also identifies these characters and has a powerful impact on their lives as well.
Other than the legal consequences, animal cruelty is penalized by a perverse mind, guilt, and horrible karma. Really, what sane individual would intentionally abuse an animal that is of such lower intelligence capabilities compared to human’s potential? It’s sad and pathetic that a human would do something like that to animals, even though it does happen. Legal consequences are compounded by the karma factor as well, what goes around comes around.
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