Why Would Anybody Want to Use a Fox to Guard the Henhouse?

Posted by Scott Heiser, Director of ALDF's Criminal Justice Program on June 25, 2007

What the heck are judges thinking when they order a convicted animal abuser to serve community service at the local animal shelter?  I’ll save the discussion about the use of community service as a sentencing option in violent crimes for another day and focus solely on the issue of where the community service is to be performed. 

Would a competent judge order a thief to work off a community service beef at a jewelry story?  Would a competent judge sentence a burglar to do community service by installing home alarm systems for ADT?  Would a competent judge order a child abuser to work in a day-care center?  The obvious answer to all of these questions is a resounding, “Hell no!”  So, then, why is it that we see so many animal abuse cases where the trial judge orders the defendant to pay back his or her debit to society by working for the animal shelter?  Sure, some of this is invited error by either a misguided prosecutor or the defense attorney looking to minimize his client’s exposure.  However, the buck stops at the bench and trial judges continue to make the mistake of thinking that society and the animal abuser are both going to somehow benefit by requiring a person with a demonstrated capacity to harm animals to care for captive animals in less than tightly supervised conditions. 

This is such an obvious recipe for disaster not just for the animals placed at risk but also for the animal shelter staff and board.  So, next time you read a story in your local news about a similar case, fire off a letter to the editor pointing out the issue and help educate your local judges.


One thought on “Why Would Anybody Want to Use a Fox to Guard the Henhouse?

  1. Lynn Nobil says:

    I stand corrected (with embarrassment) concerning my statement that animal abusers spend time working at animal shelters. I assumed this would develop a compassion for animals. I did not realize the scope of problems this would cause for both the animals and the shelter staff.
    Thank-you for the education on this painful topic and for all of your tireless work for the animals.

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