(ANIMAL CRUELTY/ANIMAL LAWS) The recent actions of Andre Robinson, a 22-year-old man living in Brooklyn, have captured the attention of animal rights activists nationwide. Robinson admitted to kicking a cat, filming the cruel act, and uploading the violent video to Facebook.

Since the brutal video went viral, it did not take long before activists berated Robinson for harming an innocent animal. Robinson’s violent act is rightfully being treated as a serious crime, which brings to light how animal cruelty is now becoming a mainstream concern.

Read on to learn more about Robinson’s possible jail sentence and efforts to strengthen animal cruelty laws. — Global Animal

Mr. Robinson was arrested for kicking King, a stray cat. Photo credit: ASPCA
Andre Robinson was arrested for kicking King, a stray cat. Photo credit: ASPCA

New York Times

The video lasts all of 12 seconds: A stray cat — after being lured by a young man’s outstretched hand — is suddenly and violently kicked, its body propelled through the air, clearing a small fence and landing about 20 feet away, to a chorus of cackling laughter.

The man, Andre Robinson, was soon arrested.

Had it been a person he kicked, Mr. Robinson, 22, most likely would have received a quick plea bargain requiring no jail time — if, that is, he had even been arrested.

But now, every time Mr. Robinson has appeared in court in Brooklyn, animal-rights activists have surrounded him, attending his hearings and calling for a jail sentence. He has not even received a plea offer from prosecutors, which is extremely rare in misdemeanor cases.

Mr. Robinson, who has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge, has admitted to the police that he kicked the cat at the Brevoort Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where he lives, and then posted a video of the kick on Facebook. He has not explained why he kicked the cat.

Motive aside, Mr. Robinson has unwittingly placed himself at the center of an impassioned, growing debate.

On one side are the activists. Once dismissed as cat ladies or fringe do-gooders, they have come to wield real power through funding, organization and a focus on legal remedies for animal abuse. They have embraced social-media campaigns; offered rewards to potential witnesses to animal abuse; trained prosecutors; and made inroads in pushing law enforcement across the country to arrest, and seek jail time for, animal abusers.

Yet lawyers defending the accused say that punishment can seem disproportionate to the crime when an animal is the victim. They say that putting people in jail can have serious long-term effects, from starting or strengthening gang affiliations, to taking someone away from school or a job to which they may not return.

“The nature of the crime should not automatically mandate a jail sentence if a person is found guilty,” said Tina Luongo, acting attorney in charge of the Legal Aid Society’s criminal practice.

At the moment, the activists seem to be winning the fight. The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced this month that it would track animal abuse as a separate crime, rather than lumping it in the “other” category.

In New York City, the Police Department took over responsibility for animal abuse complaints in January, and created an Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad. Arrests for animal abuse increased about 250 percent through September, compared with the same period last year.

Mr. Robinson lured the stray cat toward him with treats before proceeding to violently kick him. Photo credit: BuzzFeed
Robinson lured the stray cat toward him with treats before proceeding to violently kick the animal. Photo credit: BuzzFeed

And the Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, said Mr. Robinson’s case, which is scheduled to go to trial on Wednesday, was “indicative of my determination to be strong on folks who think they can just abuse any type of animal.”

“It’s part of the new administration; we’re going to take these cases seriously,” said Mr. Thompson, who took office in January.

The view from Brooklyn is widely shared. Houston’s district attorney said this month that she would seek jail time in animal cruelty cases, and Massachusetts passed a bill increasing maximum prison time for animal abuse cases to seven years from five. In Virginia, after a push from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a man was sentenced in February to a year in jail for starving a pit bull. And in Texas this year, a man received five years after offering to guide a wayward pet donkey home, then dragging the donkey behind his truck. The donkey, which was found in a ditch, survived.

Mr. Robinson’s case drew particular wrath because his actions were captured in a video that went viral. The cat, known as King, a stray who lived in Mr. Robinson’s housing project, was captured by animal activists, cared for by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and was adopted.

Not long ago, animal cruelty was “considered a side issue, relegated to something a few overpassionate people cared about, basically,” said Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal of the Upper West Side, who has backed several bills strengthening animal cruelty laws. “Now, it’s a mainstream concern.”

And it is one that animal groups are trying to make even more central.

Read the full New York Times article, here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/30/nyregion/animal-abuse-gains-traction-as-a-serious-crime-with-jail-more-often-the-result.html