There's a bill out there in the General Assembly that I hope all of us, left and right, can get behind...
I've been working with my friend Nic Kipke on HB 378, a bill that severely increases the penalties for Animal Abuse and Aggravated Animal Cruelty. Fortunately, the bill has bipartisan support with 25 sponsors on the bill.
The increased penalties will include:
- Double the jail-time and fine for misdemeanor animal cruelty;
- Double the fine for felony aggravated cruelty;
- Impose tougher jail-time for felony aggravated cruelty; increasing from 3 to 5 years the maximum sentence, providing for a mandatory minimum of 1 year, and prohibiting the suspension of the mandatory minimum;
- Mandatory psychological counseling for those convicted of both the misdemeanor and the felony charge.
Obviously in the wake of the Michael Vick incident animal cruelty has become something that has been much higher in the minds of Americans. It's unfortunate that it took a heinous act by a famous athlete in order to bring this issue to the forefront.
There are two things that are particularly noteworthy about animal abusers. One is the fact that we as a society should not allow for our fellow citizens to harm animals just for the sake of harming animals. That's not exactly something that promotes civilized society. But secondarily, animal abuse is a gateway for other notable psychological problems. A lot of criminals start out their devilish ways through the abuse of animals. Jeffrey Dahmer and the Boston Strangler are two of many serial killers, for example, who started out with aggravated animal abuse before moving up to crimes more and more heinous with each passing example.
We cannot minimize the need for tougher penalties on crimes committed against people. However, when you consider the history of violent criminals, hopefully this bill will serve as a deterrent, both to stop people from committing crimes against defenseless animals, and to make sure that the people who commit these crimes pay severely for what they have done.
The Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on this bill on Thursday, January 31st at 1 PM. I encourage you to testify, submit written testimony, or contact members of the committee to voice your support for this important legislation. As I said, this is the kind of bill both Republicans and Democrats can support and hopefully we can work together to push this meaningful legislation through.
(Crossposted on blog.briangriffiths.com and Free State Politics)