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Hoyden Faces Hard Time in Hamstercide Case

by F. J. Dagg on March 18th, 2011

“Man bites dog” is, or used be, journalists’ jargon for an event whose improbability makes it newsworthy. With concern over cruelty to animals growing in recent times however, the old saw has lost some of its edge as real-world parallels have become more commonly reported. A disclaimer: I love animals. I’m a slave to a flock of hummingbirds who keep me running two or three times a day to keep their favorite feeder full. I don’t step on spiders in the house; I put them outside after catching them in an old paper towel tube set aside specifically for that purpose. I could go on.

But consider the case of Monique Smith, 19, of Brooklyn, the alleged murderer of the family hamster. (I can’t say “murderess,” can I?) Apparently it was a crime of misdirected passion; Ms. Smith allegedly killed the rodent in the course of an argument with members of her family in June 2010. She now faces felony charges that might get her two years in prison.

Now, consider the case of Alexander Harwell and Lorenzo Sepulveda, Jr., who were convicted in 2010 of the 2008 murder of Maria Padilla, 27. After shooting Padilla to death the killers dismembered her body and scattered the pieces in multiple locations, for which each was sentenced to 15 years, with the possibility of release in less than 10 years.

Back to the Brooklyn hamstercide case. Cute and cuddly as a hamster may be–and whose life expectancy is between two and three years–is its life worth two years of a human life? If in the present case a two-year prison term is possible, what if Ms. Smith had been a mass hamster murderer? If in our society the life of a hamster is so nearly equivalent to that of a man, might she have expected to do the same kind of time as Harwell and Sepulveda?

I’m sure I abhor Ms. Smith’s barbarous act as much as any ASPCA member does, and please don’t  doubt that I think she should pay a penalty for it. Those of us who believe that the world of human experience is but a small part of a greater Reality trust that she will necessarily, in this world or the next, atone for her cruelty. But is it appropriate to expend this world’s already stressed judicial resources on a case like this? What does it say about a society in which adults who cold-bloodedly murder and then mutilate a fellow human being spend a few years in prison, and a kid who kills a rodent in an adolescent fit of rage faces two years inside? You tell me.

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