I love dolphins. They are beautiful and smart creatures. However, they belong in the wild, not in aquariums or in hotel pools where guests can swim with them.

So, when CNN ran a story last month that a dolphin birthing area in Gulfport, Miss., is being attacked, I was outraged. Seven dolphin carcasses have been discovered along a 120-mile stretch of the Gulf Coast, from Louisiana in the west to Florida in the east. The report stated that some of these magnificent mammals suffered gunshot wounds, while others were mutilated, one with its jaw cut off.

These are heinous crimes and every effort should be made to find the persons responsible before the dolphins begin giving birth and their offspring are put at risk.

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, anyone convicted of killing a dolphin faces a year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

What kind of person would kill a dolphin? Research has shown time and time again that individuals who kill animals often go on to kill people. That's one reason why we need stronger laws to prosecute individuals guilty of crimes against animals and put them behind bars.

I am offering a $5,000 reward to find the individuals who are killing these dolphins in the Gulf Coast. I believe that some sick individual will brag about killing dolphins and a concerned citizen will turn him in to the local authorities.

We are stewards of the earth and it is our responsibility to protect all living things. We cannot tolerate the abuse of animals placed in our care.

Whether it is dolphins in the Gulf, retired racehorses, or puppies sold through puppy mills, we need to take responsibility for what is right and just. We cannot stand by and permit cruelty to animals, which in the long run diminish us all as human beings.

Cathy Kangas is a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society of the United States. She can be reached at cathy@praibeauty.com.

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