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Web letter by Joyce Mattingly: Sentences in two cases send an unintentional message

Two headlines appeared on the Oct. 30 front page. One announced “No jail time for mother aware of kids’ abuse” and the other stated “Cat-hoarding pair sentenced to prison.”

As an animal lover who does not even eat anything that gives birth, I can justify the punishment given for animal cruelty and property destruction. I do, however, find it hard to understand why a person pleading guilty to four felony counts of neglect of their own children should be allowed freedom and the possibility of regaining custody.

It is a given that both of these cases of abuse are the result of a lack of education, but the fact that punishment is received for animal abuse and not for child abuse is unacceptable. The director of Animal Care and Control was quoted in the cat-neglect story as stating, “It just breaks you heart. They lived their entire life in that environment. They knew nothing better.” This would also be an appropriate statement about the four children of Breezy Parker.

Judge John Surbeck said “I don’t think any real interest would be served” by placing the mother in prison. The real interest would be the future of these four children, all younger than eight. The attorney representing the children said they wish to go home to be with their mother. Why would we allow children who, just like the cats, “knew nothing better,” determine their own safety? Granted, it is always best to keep families together, but past records indicate that even Parker’s sister reported continued abuse.

The cat abusers will be allowed by the courts to have no more than two cats in the future after they serve their sentence, undergo psychiatric evaluation and do community service. Parker has a strong possibility of being reunited with her children and any future children she may have if she complies with Child Services officials. I am so concerned that the cats will have a better life than the children.

Surbeck is quoted as saying: “The purpose of sentencing is not to send a message to the community.” I think a message was sent to the community – you will be punished for neglecting your cats but not for abusing and neglecting your children.

Cats may have nine lives, but children do not. Parents need to be held accountable for their actions.


Fort Wayne