Animals and Criminal Justice

Carmen M. Cusak / Transaction Publishers / 252 pages

Never judge a book by its cover—good advice. This one may lead the reader to expect a review of current trends in the treatment of animals by the criminal justice system—e.g., including pets under protection orders, responding to police shootings involving dogs, achieving more vigorous enforcement of cruelty statutes, etc. The book is in fact something different and more philosophical. It takes the reader on a very nonlinear trip through the many manifestations of the animal-human relationship, suggesting that defining “cruelty”—for that matter, even defining “animal”—depends on the animal involved, the person involved, the circumstances, the locality, the intent of the action. The same mélange of factors influences how society responds. The book looks in some detail at how humans use and abuse animals for religious and entertainment purposes in particular, and at various other forms of mistreatment in general. In an interesting twist on its title, the book discusses the many ways animals “work”—and are trained for such work—in the criminal justice system, from police canine units and mounted police to therapeutic pet programs in prisons and dolphins who patrol our coastlines as part of the war on terror. The roles of animal control and “animal welfarists” are also examined.

Animals and Criminal Justice is not exhaustive, by any means, and its organization is a bit confusing, but it does shed light—especially for the reader new to the subject matter—on some of the complexities and contradictions inherent in animal-human interactions.

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