The before and after photos are haunting - seeing a beautiful wild animal in apparently good health contrasted with the shocking photos of the same animal in a severe state of agony and neglect.
The anguished death of a Siberian lynx last week in Florida has raised national attention. The 15 year old son of Paul Stewart, of Southwest Ranches, Florida, allegedly acquired the 65 pound lynx from a Miami wildlife dealer identified by the Sun Sentinel as Daniel Blinder. The teenager said he exchanged a dirt bike and dune buggy for the exotic animal. Then, he admitted trying to sell the lynx on Craigslist.com.
In November, Florida Wildlife officials responded to a complaint that a big cat was being kept in substandard living conditions with no access to clean drinking water. The cat was discovered in a cage, not only without clean drinking water, but suffering from severe skin and eye infections, as well as kidney and liver failure. Officers seized the animal and brought it to a licensed exotic animal care facility, but said "sadly, the cat was unable to recover from extensive damage to his internal organs."
The pictures of the condition of the lynx are graphic and shocking. Commenters are questioning how the parents stood by while this alleged neglect took place and what it bodes for the future of this teenager.
The link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence is well established. Many communities cross-train social-service and animal-control agencies about how to recognize signs of animal abuse as possible indicators of other abusive behaviors. A paper published in a psychiatry journal in 2004, found that over a 10-year period, 6-to-12-year-old children who were described as being cruel to animals were more than twice as likely as other children in the study to be reported to juvenile authorities for a violent offense. In an October 2005 paper published in Journal of Community Health, a team of researchers conducting a study over seven years in 11 metropolitan areas determined that pet abuse was one of five factors that predicted who would begin other abusive behaviors. In a 1995 study, nearly a third of pet-owning victims of domestic abuse, meanwhile, reported that one or more of their children had killed or harmed a pet.
Stewart and his son were issued misdemeanor citations, including possession of a Class II animal without a permit and improper caging. The 15-year-old was also cited for attempting to sell wildlife without a permit. The wildlife dealer, was cited for providing a Class II animal to an unpermitted individual, and for obstruction as he initially denied involvement in the trade. If convicted, the men face maximum penalties of $500 fines and one-year jail terms for each count, the Sentinel reports.
With so many cases of violent behavior, and even mass shootings, some question whether or not this might be an instance where stronger penalties are needed and mandatory counseling for the families involved. Sadly, for the animal victim, it’s already too late.