WASHINGTON, DC, July 11, 2000- In statehouses across the country, animal cruelty is increasingly being taken seriously, according to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). A series of new laws passed this year continues a trend towards stricter penalties for animal cruelty perpetrators that began in the mid 1990s. Thirty-one states now provide felony level penalties for certain types of animal cruelty violations.

“Colorado and Iowa have joined California in mandating a psychological evaluation and counseling for animal cruelty perpetrators,” said Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president for The HSUS. “For decades, animal cruelty penalties have been weak. Now, lawmakers are recognizing the need to end the cycle of violence by mandating counseling and enacting serious penalties in animal cruelty cases.”

New laws passed in the last few months include:

  • Torturing any cat or dog with the intent to inflict intense pain, serious physical injury or death is now a Class C felony in Alabama. The minimum penalty is one year and one day in prison while the maximum sentence is a 10-year jail term and a $5,000 fine. This law was known as the Gucci Bill, named for dog who was abused, tortured, doused with gasoline, and set afire. Gucci and Shadow, another dog tortured and set afire in a separate incident, attended the bill signing ceremony. Both dogs recovered from their injuries and were adopted by loving owners. 
  • Colorado now mandates a psychological evaluation of a person convicted of animal cruelty before the judge imposes a sentence. 
  • In Tennessee, the court can impose up to $4,000 in non-economic damages against a person who kills or seriously injures a pet. This provision, which applies only in the more populous regions of the state, reflects the growing recognition that a pet has a legal value above and beyond any monetary value. 
  • Georgia passed a law that makes aggravated cruelty to animals a felony offense with a minimum penalty of one year in prison or a fine not to exceed $15,000 or both. 
  • Wyoming legislators responded to public outrage over a judge’s decision in a horse cruelty case by changing the wording of the state’s cruelty law. The case involved a horse owner who was found not guilty for killing his horse after he used a short rope to tie his horse to a tree. The horse fell, broke his neck and died. The judge in the case interpreted the state’s cruelty law to exempt an animal’s owner from prosecution for animal cruelty. The new law removes the language on which the judge based his decision. 
  • In Iowa, a second of subsequent conviction of animal torture is now a felony offense and the perpetrator is required to submit to a psychological evaluation and treatment at their own expense. 
  • South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges recently signed a law making animal cruelty a felony offense with a minimum 180-day prison sentence and a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

“Although the majority of states now consider animal cruelty a felony, in some areas horrific acts of animal neglect and abuse are not prosecuted and many states, such as Ohio, have outdated animal cruelty laws that do little to protect defenseless and vulnerable animals,” concluded Pacelle. “The Humane Society of the United States encourages every state to enact tough penalties for any and all types of animal cruelty.”

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization with more than 7.3 million members and constituents.



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