Most animal cruelty charges result from ignorance, laziness and/or negligence. Occasionally a situation in which intentional viciousness is the cause surfaces.
That allegedly is what happened on Wheeling Island during the weekend. A 27-year-old man has been arrested and accused of beating a small dog to death. According to a witness, this was not a situation in which the killer lost his temper and quickly dispatched the animal. At least an hour passed between the first beating and the fatal attack.
Animals are not human beings, of course. Law enforcement officials are right to focus on criminals who harm people.
But those who deliberately kill helpless animals sometimes are demonstrating cruelty and an utter absence of empathy that can put human beings in danger, too. All too often the jump from beating an animal to mauling a helpless person is a short one for such criminals.
That is why some animal cruelty cases should be handled differently. It is bad enough when someone negligently allows animals to starve or suffer from the heat. It is another story entirely when intentional cruelty is exhibited.
Local law enforcement officers acted quickly to arrest the alleged Wheeling Island culprit. The court system should handle him carefully, too.