Two animal cruelty cases made headlines last summer in Sudbury, but neither saw the stiffer sentence protesters were asking for.

Some say it's now time for a less emotional discussion about how the law treats animals.

Protesters outside the Sudbury courthouse last fall thought the man who shot the dog known as "Buddy" the dog deserved more than a $2,000 fine.

"It's a complete joke. I think he should have gotten four years in jail, with a $60,000 fine. Justice is not done at all," one protester said at the time.

There was similar reaction to the two-years probation a Val Caron woman was sentenced to last month after her one-year-old Labrador retriever died in a hot car while she went shopping at a mall in Vaughn.

A petition was collected in York Region last summer, calling on the judge to make an example of Lazurko with a stiff sentence.

Pet store owner Ian Johnson helped to circulate the petition that stated the penalty should have been more severe.

"To hear of a creature going through that, just makes me sick to my stomach," he said.

"It's no different than leaving a child in a car. And you should be punished."

Animals as 'sentient property'

Dr. Darren Stinson from the Chelmsford Animal Hospital said he believes animal cruelty laws need to be reviewed — but doesn't think these public uproars are the way to do it.

"I think the discussion has to be a little more tempered and a little more rational, than just getting out there with placards and protesting," he said.

At the heart of this debate is the fact the law sees animals as possessions, according to University of Windsor criminologist Amy Fitzgerald.

"Even though, socially, we have much more complex feelings about our pets, legally they are still considered property," she said.

While many cringe at the idea of animals being considered the same as people, Fitzgerald noted, some have suggested the law could be adjusted to classify pets as "sentient property."