A Connecticut law now on the books provides for tougher penalties in some animal cruelty cases. Specifically, the law that took effect Oct. 1 ups the maximum punishment for repeat offenders.
Until recently, anyone convicted of malicious and intentional animal cruelty more than once was guilty of Class D felony. That meant the offender could be sentenced to no more than five years in prison. Now a “subsequent offense” is designated as a Class C felony, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Putting it in “plain English” that means anyone found guilty of “maliciously or intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, wounding, or killing an animal” in separate cases no longer gets a slap on the wrist. However, someone convicted for the first time is still guilty of a Class D felony.
Penalties for animal neglect remain the same. If convicted, anyone who deprives an animal or animals of adequate “care, food and water” faces up to one year in prison, a $1,000 fine or both. Anyone found guilty of such activity more than once faces up to five years in prison.
There are exceptions to every rule. In Connecticut, people in certain professions, or who engage in certain activities, cannot be prosecuted under the state’s “malicious and intentional animal cruelty” law — as long as they are following “acceptable practices.” For example, veterinarians, people working in abattoirs, and farmers or ranchers are exempt. Researchers and hunters acting within legal parameters are also exempt.
Whether the exemptions are “fair” or “right” is a matter of opinion and can be debated at another time. Whether the laws pertaining to neglect should be changed is also a matter of opinion and a subject for future debate. The same can be said about whether the new law goes far enough.
All anyone can say for certain is that animal abuse and neglect is an American epidemic that must be addressed. Recently compiled statistics show that:
- The media reports on roughly 1,900 animal abuse cases each year.
- Most animal abuse cases involve dogs, and of the cases involving dogs, the majority involve pit bulls.
- Neglect and abandonment are the most common forms of abuse.
- Hoarding makes up 13 percent of animal cruelty cases.
- Fighting makes up 9 percent of animal cruelty cases.
As someone who has personally witnessed the effects of animal cruelty as a pet owner (Eli was definitely abused before I adopted him) and as someone who volunteers at a local shelter, I have very strong feelings about the topic. As far as I am concerned there’s simply no punishment harsh enough for anyone who hurts an animal. None.