Over the years, the Hottinger household has been home to several pets, many of which have been strays or rescues. Even if you are not a fan of owning a pet, I believe everyone would agree that animals should never be mistreated or abused.
After becoming aware of numerous, horrific acts against animals, I was prompted to draft legislation to address this issue, along with my colleague Senator Sean O’Brien. This week, we offered sponsor testimony on our legislation that seeks to increase penalties for killing or seriously injuring a companion animal. Furthermore, the bill would create a new offense for those who aid or abet in the killing or causing serious physical injury to companion animals.
A companion animal is a cat, dog, or any other animal kept inside a residential dwelling (not including livestock or wild animals). Under current law, the needless killing of a companion animal is generally a 1st degree misdemeanor. Senate Bill 205 would increase it to a felony of the 3rd degree.
Senate Bill 205 also redefines the most egregious acts of violence and makes those third degree felonies. Under current law, egregious acts are only a first degree misdemeanor or a fifth degree felony. These egregious acts, redefined as “serious physical injury,” involve poisoning that leads to death, or an injury resulting from unnecessary or unjustifiable cruel beating or mutilation that causes prolonged or intractable pain or carries a substantial risk of death.
Additionally, Senate Bill 205 would create a new offense which prohibits a person from knowingly aiding or abetting the cruelty prohibitions specified above. The penalty for aiding or abetting would be a fourth degree felony.
Certain instances of cruelty to animals have made it clear that we need stronger penalties for the killing or torture of a companion animal. I have heard horror stories of people strangling, beating, skinning, and setting animals on fire in their cages. Individuals who commit such horrific acts often receive punishments that do not match their crimes, or they are granted an early release from prison. Thus, there is little deterrent for cruelty to animals.
Numerous studies have found that there is a link between animal abuse and criminal violence against people. One study, published by the National District Attorney Association, discovered that 67% of children residing in family violence shelters reported witnessing the family pet being abused. This same study also found that women seeking refuge at a family violence shelter were almost 11 times more likely to report that their partner had committed violence against their pet.
People who commit heinous acts against companion animals should be given more than a slap on the wrist. By increasing the penalties for cruelty to companion animals, it is my hope that Senate Bill 205 will deter acts of violence against both animals and people.
Senate Bill 205 will continue its hearings in the Senate Judiciary committee. Follow the legislation by clicking here.