A Eugene, Oregon man zip-tied a puppy’s muzzle shut, took a picture of the abuse and posted it on Facebook with a caption reading, “when you’re tired of the fucking barking!!!”  Afterward, numerous people sent emails to complain to news station KVAL News.

Linn County Sheriff’s deputies went out to investigate and determined that the puppy was not in any harm. The reason they gave for believing the puppy was not being mistreated was the zip-tie was “loose” and the dog had no injuries or marks. They advised the owner to “not post pictures like that” (as if the picture, not the cruelty were the real problem), and proceeded to say it was just “bad judgment” on the owner’s part. For a follow up, they have turned the case over to Animal Control — but the owner is not facing criminal charges.

While local police often take such egregious abuse cases far too lightly, at least the federal government (and some state legislators) are starting to give more weight to crimes of animal cruelty. The FBI has now developed a national database where law enforcement agencies can document all reported animal cruelty. Animal cruelty will also now be categorized under “Group A Felony” with other serious crimes, such as rape. Tennessee now has an animal cruelty database as well, and several other states, such as Connecticut, are considering similar policies.

As heartening as the national attention to animal cruelty may be, this tragic zip-tie story shows just how far many local departments have to catch up. It is up to the authorities to document and prosecute animal offenders, and make sure these crimes are not swept under the rug — or simply dismissed as “bad judgement.”