Why do anti-cruelty laws protect companion animals more than non-companion animals?

Most jurisdictions punish animal cruelty more severely if the creature harmed is a “companion animal”. Is it justified to afford more legal protection to companion animals than to non-companion animals? Some would argue that it is not. If what makes non human animals worthy of legal protection is that they are capable of feeling pain, distinguishing between companion and non companion animals for legal purposes appears to be unwarranted. The line should be drawn, the argument would go, between sentient and non-sentient animals rather than between companion and companion animals. Therefore, unjustifiably inflicting pain on a sentient animal should be punished in the same manner regardless of whether the creature harmed is a companion or non companion animal.

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