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Response to DQ 2

December 14, 2020

Respond by Day 5 to at least two colleagues and offer alternative explanations for the commonalities and differences. Or, offer an alternative perspective on how international perspectives have helped shape your criminal justice system.

 

 I have chosen to write about the use of animals as a weapon.  Roth (2011) writes about people of the past being held accountable for their animals harming others when he describes “the ‘law of the goring ox’” (p. 8).  It is explained that according to Mosaic code, animal owners could be held financially liable for harm done by their animals; or in cases where animals caused death, owners could be sentenced to death (Roth, 2011, p.8).  In contemporary times, however rare, instances are not unheard of where pet or animal owners will intentionally use their animals to harm others.

A specific contemporary case is illustrated in People v. Henderson (1999).  In this case, Henderson used several dogs, two being pit bulls, to threaten to injure or kill law enforcement officers investigating a dispute at Henderson’s residence (FindLaw, n.d.).  As a result of threatening to use the dogs as deadly weapons, Henderson was arrested, charged, and found guilty of multiple criminal violations, for which he was sentenced to prison.  Upon appeal, the Court of Appeal for the Fifth District of California affirmed Henderson’s conviction and sentence (FindLaw, n.d.).

It seems that there is little change to response to the use of an animal to harm others, between ancient and contemporary times.  Culturally speaking, I feel that the premise is the same today as it was long ago, that the owner is responsible for the actions of his animal.  Granted, I feel there is more to present day laws and legal precedent today than in the past.  Culpability holds greater weight in contemporary time.  Additionally, the laws against using an animal to harm another are likely to view an animal, in context, as a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon, rather than an animal which happened to cause harm.  Ultimately the animal is viewed as a tool to exact the owner’s will; whether it is intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently.  There is doubt an owner would be sentenced to death in the case of negligence, which Roth (2011) points out in contrast with ancient adjudication (p. 8).  Present day punishment is commensurate with the crime.

I feel that contemporary laws regarding the use of an animal as a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon are intended to see the crime from the point of view of the owner.  As previously discussed, culpability plays a large part in holding the owner responsible for the harm done by the animal.  In contrast, if instances where harm was done by an animal, despite culpability by the owner, and the owner were to be punished, with the exception of negligence, I feel there would be injustice.  In my opinion, I feel today’s understanding of the related issues account for ill intent of animal owners, such as in the case of Henderson, and issues as they relate to animals that act out of their owner’s control.  Additionally, in contemporary times, I feel that additional charges of animal cruelty may be brought against the animal owner who uses their animal as a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon.  While I do not feel that the United States is influenced by the international community regarding this issue, I do feel that similar charges would be sought in other nations to protect animals from being harmed due to the criminal behavior of their owners.

References:

FindLaw. (n.d.). People v. Henderson, 76 Cal. App. 4th 453 (1999). Retrieved from http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1223707.html

Roth, M. P. (2011). Crime and punishment: A history of the criminal justice system (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.