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Published: Sunday, 7/31/2005

Hey, dummy, here's your sign

So-called shaming penalties, which seek to humiliate someone convicted of a crime, are not a favorite of ours. If someone deserves to go to jail, send him to jail. If he deserves a fine, make him pay.

We hold to that concept regarding a Pennsylvania man named Ulysses Zimmerman, who should have gone to jail and paid a fine for his crime. He pleaded guilty to animal cruelty for allegedly neglecting his dog, denying it veterinary care, and finally strangling the animal. Nice guy, huh?

But instead of jail time or a fine, a plea agreement allowed him to stand at a busy intersection near where he lives while wearing a sign that said "I Plead Guilty Animal Cruelty is a Crime My Dog's Name WAS Salt and Pepper."

The response was a stream of abuse from passing motorists, so much so that he was allowed to go home early. We still think he got off lightly in a greater sense, but have to admit that perhaps he learned his lesson.

Still, does the public have to be called in to make the punishment fit the crime?

In the shaming of this culprit, aren't those who hooted and hollered also a bit shamed? In trying to make the sort of civilized environment in which respect for animals is second nature, society doesn't advance its cause by going back to the equivalent of the stocks.

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