Thursday, April 24, 2014
Today the PAWS Act received its public hearing before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. There were several legislators, animal activists, and advocacy groups testifying in support of the comprehensive animal abuse protection bill that I authored, which has 75 additional co-sponsors.
Today’s hearing was an important next step in the legislative process. With formal sessions ending on July 31st, it is imperative that people call, email, or write to the members of the Judiciary Committee to release the bill favorably. Click here for the contact information for the members of the Judiciary Committee.
The legislation raises fines and penalties, and creates an animal abuse registry. Highlights of the bill include:
• Establishing an anonymous animal abuse tip hotline;
• Expanding the use of the Homeless Animal Prevention and Care Fund to include the rehabilitation and care of abused animals, and increasing the size of the board that administers the fund to include a special state police officer from an animal humane organization, and a member of local law enforcement;
• Imposing a fine of up to $1,000 on any veterinarian who knowingly and willfully fails to report a suspected act of cruelty to an animal;
• Increasing the penalties associated with cruelty to animals, or maliciously killing, maiming, disfiguring, or exposing them to poison from a monetary fine of $2,500 or imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 ½ years to between $2,500 and $10,000 and/or imprisonment;
• Providing judicial discretion to expand the penalties for up to 5 additional years imprisonment and an additional $10,000 fine based on a finding of the existence of aggravating factors, including but not limited to the number of animals involved, the degree of premeditation or planning, whether the abuse occurred in the presence of a child; whether the abuse occurred as a result of acts undertaken for financial benefit (i.e., dogfighting), and whether the abuse was systematic or isolated;
• Increasing the penalties for a second or subsequent offense from 5-10 years state imprisonment and a fine between $5,000 to $20,000;
• Increasing the penalty for a hit and run conviction on a cat or dog from a $50 fine to up to $2,000 fine and/or up to 60 days in a house of corrections;
• Creating a statewide registry of convicted individuals of animal abuse crimes, and requires all animal shelters, pet stores or animal breeders to check the registry prior to offering, selling, delivering, or giving an animal to any individual; and
• Creating a 9-member commission to review the state’s animal cruelty laws, many of which date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.