For his birthday wish, Newark Mayor Cory Booker is raising money to build a state-of-the-art animal shelter. He plans to name the shelter "Patrick's Place" after Patrick the pit bull who was starved by his owner then placed in a garbage bag and thrown down the garbage chute.
While having a facility equipped to handle a large number of homeless pets in a humane manner is honorable, the best way to pay tribute to Patrick is by addressing the underlying causes of animal cruelty and abuse.
No animal should have to suffer what Patrick did. He had a strong will to survive and is inspiring people across the world to take a look at the way their own community treats animals.
Call on Mayor Booker to not only work toward a goal of a better shelter in Newark but to work toward preventing more cases of animal abuse by committing to tougher laws, humane education, assistance for animal victims of domestic violence, low cost spay/neuter, and an animal abuser registry.
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However, Newark needs more than just a shelter to prevent the kind of cruelty suffered by Patrick. As the leader of Newark, I urge you to commit to the following programs to turn the city into one that is known for its care of animals beyond just the construction of Patrick’s Place:
1) Tougher laws in Newark and NJ for Animal Cruelty
Animal Legal Defense Fund has ranked New Jersey in the bottom tier for animal protection laws (see http://www.aldf.org/article.php?id=1548 for more information). Strong animal cruelty laws send the message that abusing animals will not be tolerated. It was through world-wide outcry that led to Patrick’s abuser facing fourth-degree felony charges, not by the language of the law.
2) Education Programs that Teach Compassion Toward Animals
There is a proven link between animal abuse and human abuse. Often abusers start out by harming animals, since they are small and easy to control. By the time they are adults, the focus has shifted to harming other human beings.
3) Safe Sheltering for Pets of Domestic Violence Victims
Abusers involved in domestic violence will use pets to harm their victim, either by hurting the pets or by threatening harm to the pets if their victim leaves. Domestic violence shelters typically do not allow pets, resulting in victims remaining with their abuser simply because they do not want to leave their pets behind.
4) Low-cost Spay/Neuter Programs
Pet overpopulation is a concern across the nation. Unfortunately not all pet owners can afford the cost to have animals fixed. Vouchers and mobile spay/neuter vans are used to address the problem but quickly become overwhelmed by demand. Allocating additional funds to these programs will increase the number of pet owners in the community that can be served.
5) Animal Abuser Registry
By creating a database of convicted animal abusers, Newark will have a better ability to protect not only animals but people as well from more acts of cruelty. Suffolk County, New York was the first municipality to sign an animal abuser registry into law last fall, showing that it can be done.
Mayor Booker, I believe you are truly compassionate toward animals. In order to best serve the animals and people of your community, the priority needs to be the development of a plan that will address multiple causes of companion animal abuse and neglect, both in the shelter and beyond.