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Baby Steps: Minnesota Raises Certain Forms of Animal Cruelty to Felony Status

By Corwin R. Kruse

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The relationships between humans and animals are complex and contradictory; we welcome them into our homes and treat them as members of the family, yet we inflict upon them all manner of atrocities. Although laws prohibiting cruelty to animals exist in all states, “the law in practice does little, if anything, to protect animals . . . .” Animals, it seems, must struggle to find a place within our “scope of justice, the psychological boundary within which considerations of fairness govern our conduct.” Our ambivalent attitude toward other creatures seems to stem from a number of factors: the dissociation of human consumptive practices from the infliction of harm; the use of conflict reduction mechanisms; in-group / out-group biases; and our perceived lack of similarity with other animals. Because of organized and well-funded opposition, getting more stringent animal protection laws enacted has been a slow process.Slow, however, does not mean impossible. Recently, Minnesota strengthened its anti-cruelty laws. Under the amended statute, it is now a felony to kill or inflict certain types of injury to a pet or companion animal or a service animal. Minnesota thus joins 32 other states and the District of Columbia, in assigning felony status to certain forms of animal abuse. This note begins by tracing the development of anti-cruelty statutes over the last two centuries. Part II discusses the history of anti-cruelty legislation, including the philosophical and sociohistorical trends underlying these laws. Part III examines the recent changes to Minnesota’s anti-cruelty statute. Part IV analyzes these changes and proposes future modifications. Finally, part V examines current scholarship on animal abuse, discusses why the issue has typically been ignored by society, and poses challenges for the future.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2002
Publication Title William Mitchell Law Review
Volume 28
Issue 4
Pages 1-32
Publisher Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Location of Publication Saint Paul, Minnesota
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Abuse
  2. Animal abuse
  3. Animal cruelty
  4. Animal health and hygiene
  5. Animal roles
  6. Animals in culture
  7. Animal welfare
  8. Cats
  9. Crime
  10. Cruelty
  11. Dogs
  12. Health
  13. Mammals
  14. Pet ownership
  15. Pets and companion animals
  16. Physical environment
  17. Social Environments