The animal cruelty trial of Nebraska horse owner Jason Meduna has attracted a lot of attention recently. More than 200 seriously malnourished and neglected horses were removed from Meduna’s 3-Strikes Ranch, ironically promoted as a haven for rescued mustangs, almost a year ago. In January, a Morrill County jury found him guilty on 145 separate counts of abandonment of an animal and cruel neglect.

Conviction is a necessary first step in the enforcement process, but it is only half the battle. Meduna’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 23. Then we will know whether the punishment meted out by the Morrill County District Court actually fits the crime.

Animal protection laws in Nebraska were strengthened across the board a few years ago, and in 2008 the state criminalized “horse tripping,” a bizarre and totally pointless “entertainment” where a horse’s legs are lassoed and the animal is thrown to the ground. Nebraska now is one of 19 states ranked as “top-tier” by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national organization that rates animal protection laws across the country.

Section 28-1009 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes defines abandonment or cruel neglect of an animal as a Class I misdemeanor, unless there is “serious injury or illness or death.” When that happens, the offense becomes a more serious Class IV felony. Based on press reports and graphic photographs, Meduna’s case certainly deserves the felony designation. Maximum sentence for