Everyone is against cruelty to animals.

Everyone agrees people should be held responsible for abusing animals.

The problem on Capitol Hill this year, however, is the debate has gotten bogged down over the questions "who," "where" and "when."

Animal advocates want animal abuse to be a felony on the first offense. Others don't want it to be a felony at all. At the moment, making it a felony on a second or third offense seems to be gaining some legs among lawmakers.

It's a bad solution. But it's better than none.

Like the issues of abortion and alcohol, treatment of animals summons an array of opinions from the full political spectrum. Ranchers have no trouble branding "bull fighting" as cruel but recoil when activists suggest that spurring rodeo horses and hog-tying calves is abusive as well. On the other hand, animal lovers sometimes seem intent on wiping out the line that separates beasts from human beings. Some even believe killing a dog is tantamount to killing a person.

The result is the less-than-satisfying compromise that is working its way through the Statehouse.

Logic seems to dictate if a behavior is a felony on a second offense, it's probably a felony the first time, too. Nobody gets a "freebie" when it comes to assault, robbery or using a gun in a crime. As pundits have pointed out, if animal-abuse penalties only kicked in after the second or third violation, Michael Vick would be playing quarterback and walking around a free man.

Still, politics — as they say — is the art of the possible. And if the best that can be done this session is a thin piece of legislation with inconsistencies, so be it. Any legislation making cruelty to animals a felony is better than none. And the legislation is especially needed this year, when animal-abuse cases are publicized and reported more frequently, and — sadly — apparently are more prevalent. Those who show no "reverence for life" — to borrow from Albert Schweitzer — do need an attitude adjustment. And sometimes jail time is a good way to make abusive souls re-think their wicked ways.