Legislative Updates 2010: Alabama - Mississippi

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Alabama

Cockfighting Penalties (SB 124)

Sponsor: Sen. Myron C. Penn
Status: No vote; indefinitely postponed

Summary: This bill would increase penalties for cockfighting by making it a Class A misdemeanor (maximum 1 year imprisonment and/or maximum $2,000 fine) upon first conviction (this includes spectators of cockfights) and a Class C felony (minimum 1 year and 1 day and a max.10 years imprisonment, and a maximum $5,000 fine) for all subsequent convictions. Currently the law fines a person a maximum $50 fee upon any conviction of cockfighting.

Bill text not yet available online

Bonding/Forfeiture (HB 480)

Sponsor: Rep. Jamie Ison
Status: No vote; indefinitely postponed

Summary: This bill speeds up the hearing process for seized animals (law enforcement must ask for a hearing within 10 days post-seizure and the hearing must occur within 10 days after the court is asked.) The hearing must determine whether the charged owner must post a bond to cover the costs of care for his/her seized animal(s). If the owner fails to post bond within 5 days of the order, or suddenly stops posting bond any time thereafter, ownership is forfeited. Otherwise, upon conviction, the animal shelter gets custody.  If the owner is acquitted of charges, he/she gets the animal(s) back and any remaining funds.

Read the bill.

Alaska

Increasing Penalties for Aggravated Cruelty (HB 138)

Sponsor: Rep. Carl J. Gatto
Status: Incorporated into HB 6 (penalties for bestiality) and signed into law on June 15

Summary: This bill would make the felony cruelty law significantly stronger by making it a Class C felony (punishable by a maximum five years’ imprisonment) if a person commits first offense aggravated animal cruelty (intentionally inflicting severe physical pain on, killing or injuring an animal). Currently, the law only penalizes aggravated animal cruelty as a felony if the person was previously convicted on two or more separate occasions within 10 years of the present offense.

Read the bill.

Arizona

Animal Fighting as Part of RICO (SB 1054)

Sponsor: Sen. Jonathon Paton
Status: Session adjourned on 4/29; bill held in Senate Judiciary and Senate Rules Committees without a vote

Summary: This bill would add animal fighting as a qualifying offense under the Arizona Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO). Since animal fighting is a criminal enterprise that is closely connected to a host of other crimes that qualify under the RICO law, including illegal drug and weapons violations, gambling, aggravated assaults and gang violence, adding it to RICO is a strong way to enable law enforcement to go after it.

Read the bill.

Mandatory Reporting for Veterinarians (SB 1057)

Sponsor: Sen. Jonathon Paton
Status: Session adjourned on 4/29; bill held in Senate Rules Committee without a vote

Summary: This bill would require vets that suspect an animal has been a victim of cruelty/neglect/fighting to report it to local law enforcement. Upon request of law enforcement, the vet then must provide vet records to further the criminal investigation.

Read the bill.

Including Pets in Domestic Violence Protective Orders (SB 1085)

Sponsor: Linda Gray
Status: Session adjourned on 4/29; bill left on House floor without a vote. The legislature unanimously passed SB 1266, which included a pets-in-protective-orders provision and added “intentional threats” and “physical injury to a pet” as part of the definition of domestic violence.

Summary: This bill would encourage courts to include domestic animals in domestic violence protective orders.

Read the bill.

California

Animal Abuser Registry Bill (SB 1277)

Sponsor:  Senator Dean Florez
Status:  Suspended/Held in Senate Public Safety Committee

Summary:  This bill would create a public registry for individuals over 18 convicted of felony animal abuse.

Read the bill.

Colorado

Animal Welfare Law Amendments (HB 1124)

Sponsor: Rep. Wes McKinley
Status: Did not pass House Second Reading

Summary: This bill makes various changes to animal welfare laws in Colorado. American Humane expressed concern to the House of Representatives regarding Sections 1, 5(1) and 9.

Read the bill.

Read our news release.

Delaware

Pets in Domestic Violence Protective Orders (HB 77)

Sponsor: Rep. Byron Short
Status: 2009-2010 session adjourned; the bill passed the House, but was left in Senate Judiciary without a vote.

Summary: This groundbreaking bill would have encouraged judges to include pets in domestic violence protective orders.

Penalizing Animal Fighting and Baiting (SB 21)

Sponsor: Sen. Colin L. Bonini
Status: 2009-2010 session adjourned; the bill was left in Senate Judiciary without a vote.

Summary: This groundbreaking bill would have imposed a mandatory six-month minimum jail sentence for animal fighting and baiting, a provision lacking in the current animal fighting law’s felony penalty.

Florida

Bestiality (S. 104/H. 1611)

Sponsor: Sen. Nan H. Rich/Rep. James W. Waldman
Status: 2010 Session adjourned; S.104 passed unanimously in the Senate but was left in the House without a vote; H. 1611 was left in the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources Policy without a vote.

Summary: This bill would make it a first-degree misdemeanor (maximum 1 year imprisonment and maximum $1,000 fine) to (a) knowingly engage in any kind of sexual conduct or contact with an animal; (b) knowingly cause, aid or abet another person to do so; (c ) knowingly permit bestiality to occur on premises that you own; (d) knowingly advertise, organize or promote bestiality, or even participate in it as an observer.

Read the bill.

Georgia

Pets in Protective Orders (HB 429)

Sponsor: Rep. Sharon Cooper
Status: 2010 Session adjourned; bill left on House floor without a vote

Summary: This bill would encourage courts to include domestic animals in domestic violence protective orders. This bill was introduced in 2009 and had been withdrawn from the House, but in 2010, Rep. Cooper asked that the bill be recommitted.

Read the bill.

Cockfighting Penalties (HB 987)

Sponsor: Rep. Bob Bryant
Status: 2010 Session adjourned; bill left in Judiciary Non-Civil (JudyNC) Committee without a vote.

Summary: This bill penalizes owning, possessing, training, transporting, selling, causing to fight, betting on, and knowingly allowing a premises to be used for cockfighting . The bill would make it a felony punishable by a max 5 years imprisonment, and/or max $5,000 fine. For all subsequent convictions, this is elevated further to a max 10 years imprisonment and/or a $15,000 fine) for each violation of the law. The bill also penalizes cockfighting spectators upon first conviction with an aggravated misdemeanor. For the second spectator conviction, this is elevated to felony status (punishable by a max 5 years imprisonment, and/or max $5,000 fine). For third and all subsequent convictions, this is further elevated  to a max 10 years imprisonment and/or a $15,000 fine) for each violation of the law. This means that several violations could lead to some very hefty penalties. The bill allows any gamecock subject to fighting to be impounded and potentially permanently forfeited from their owner/possessor, pending the outcome of the case.

Read the bill.

Hawaii

Definitions on “Primary Pet Enclosures” (HB 2725)

Sponsor: Rep. Riki Karamatsu
Status: 2010 legislative session adjourned; bill signed into law on May 28, 2010.

Summary: This bill would require that “primary pet enclosures” (defined as any kennel, cage, or structure used to confine an animal to a limited amount of space) to provide the following: basic access to shelter; is constructed of safe materials to protect an animal from injury; allows an animal to clean and dry;  provides an animal with a solid surface or resting platform large enough for the animal to lie down and provides enough space to allow an animal to easily stand, sit, lie, turn around without contacting other pet enclosures; and allows an animal to safely interact with other animals within the enclosure (if there are any); and provides necessary pet care. 

Read the bill.

Idaho

Sterilization of Free-Roaming Cats (S 1333)

Sponsor: Drafted by Senate Agriculture Affairs Committee
Status: Session has adjourned; bill died without vote in Senate Agriculture Affairs Committee

Summary: Allows counties and municipalities to humanely capture, sterilize, and release free-roaming cats by counties and municipalities.

Read the bill.

Illinois

Penalties for Dogfighting (HB 5790/SB3628)

Sponsor: Rep. Karen A. Yarbrough/Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford
Status: Signed into law

Summary: These identical bills would make it a Class 3 felony (maximum 5 years’ imprisonment and/or maximum $25,000 fine) to bring a child under age 13 to a dogfight and each subsequent violation a Class 2 felony (maximum 7 years’ imprisonment and/or maximum $25,000 fine).  The bills would also make it a Class 3 felony to conduct a dogfight within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, playground, child day care, or any facility providing programs or services exclusively directed toward children under age 18.

Read the bill.

Kentucky

Increasing Penalties for Animal Cruelty (HB 169)

Sponsor: Rep. Joni L. Jenkins
Status: 2010 session adjourned and bill died pending in the House Judiciary Committee

Summary: This bill would make it a second-degree cruelty offense (Class A misdemeanor -- a $500 fine and/or a maximum one year in jail) if a person possesses an animal with the intent to use it for fighting, possesses any device used to train fighting animals, or administers any drug to an animal for training/fighting purposes.

Bill text not yet available online.

Forfeiture of Ownership & Increased Penalties (HB 225)

Sponsor: Rep. Ron Crimm
Status: 2010 session adjourned and bill died pending in the House Judiciary Committee

Summary: This bill would require the convicted offender (as well as the offender who has pleaded guilty) to animal fighting/torture/poisoning/killing and/or cruel neglect to forfeit ownership of the animal(s) and would prohibit the offender from owning or possessing any animal of the same species for 2 years from the date of conviction or guilty plea.

Bill text not yet available online

Immunity for Veterinarians Upon Reporting Suspected Animal Abuse (HB 238)

Sponsor: Rep. Jody Richards
Status: In House Agriculture & Small Business Committee

Summary: This bill would require encourage vets to report suspected animal abuse by ensuring immunity from civil/criminal action as long as they act in good faith.

Bill text not yet available online

Louisiana

Humane Euthanasia for Shelter Cats and Dogs (SB 73)

Sponsor: Sen. David Heitmeier
Status: Enrolled on June 16, 2010; on way to governor’s desk for signature

Summary: This bill would ban the gas chamber for euthanasia of shelter animals and prohibit intra-cardiac injection if performed on a conscious animal.

Read the bill.

Seizure of Animals and Bond Requirement (HB 428)

Sponsor: Rep. Walt Leger III
Status: Signed into law on July 2, 2010 as Act No. 916.

Summary: This bill would require owners of seized animals to pay a bond to prevent the disposition of the animal for 30-days from the day the animal is seized. The bill also requires that the bond not be less than $100 per animal per day (for 30 days). The bond must go to the animal shelter/animal control caring for the animal. Pursuant to current Louisiana law,  the court reimburses the accused animal abuser if he/she is not convicted. Also pursuant to current Louisiana law, the seized animal could be euthanized whether or not bond is posted if a licensed veterinarian determines that the animal is not likely to survive and is physically suffering.

Read the amended bill.

Maryland

Forfeiture of Ownership & Increased Penalties (SB 21)

Sponsor: Sens. James N. Robey & Jamie Raskin
Status: In Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee

Summary: This bill would increase the penalty for general animal cruelty from a maximum 90 misdemeanor penalty to a maximum 1 year and/or a maximum $2,500 fine. The bill would also allow the court to prohibit a person convicted of basic and/or aggravated animal cruelty from future ownership of an animal.

Read the bill.

Massachusetts

Increased Penalties for Animal Abuse (HB 1268)

Sponsor: Rep. Bruce J. Ayers
Status: Pending in Joint Committee on Judiciary

Summary: This bill increases the penalty for willful or malicious killing, maiming, torturing, poisoning, disfiguring any animal from a maximum 2.5 year imprisonment and/or max. $2,500 fine to a max. 5 year and/or $5,000 fine.

Custody and Care of Mistreated Animals (HB 1969)

Sponsor: Rep. Linda Dean Campbell
Status: Pending in Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government

Summary: This bill would allow animal control agencies to petition courts for defendants to post security bonds to pay for the reasonable costs shelters incur as they care for the seized animals (estimated at 30 days). If the court then orders the defendant to pay this bond, he/she must do so within 10 days, or else the animals can be forfeited to the shelters (after a hearing). If the defendant is acquitted of all charges, the court may direct a refund.

Michigan

Prohibitions on Pet Ownership and Mandatory Restitution (SB 1122)

Sponsor: Sen. Jim Barcia
Status: In Senate Committee on Judiciary

Summary: This bill addresses aggravated cruelty crimes and would require courts to order convicted offenders to pay restitution costs for the prosecution and costs of care, housing, and vet care for the animal victim(s). The court must also order that the local animal shelter gets custody of the animal victim(s). The bill strengthens the law that allows courts to forbid pet ownership by convicted offenders: for all subsequent violations, this increases to 15 years or for the offender’s lifetime. There are solid penalties for violating these ownership prohibitions: first violation is a misdemeanor with a max 93 day imprisonment and/or max. $1,000 fine; second violation is a felony with a max 4 year imprisonment and/or a max $5,000 fine.

Read the bill.

Animal Fighting Property Forfeitures (HB 5655)

Sponsor: Rep. John Espinoza
Status: Referred to House Committee on the Judiciary

Summary: This bill allows property acquired through animal fighting to be forfeited to the state and/or local government agency where the crime occurred. The property would have to have contributed directly to the crime being carried out, been used to conceal the crime, been used to escape the crime scene (cars, boats), or been used to hide the identity of one or more of the criminals.

Read the bill.

Animal Fighting as Part of RICO (HB 5656)

Sponsor: Rep. John Espinoza
Status: Referred to House Committee on the Judiciary

Summary: This bill would add animal fighting as a qualifying offense under the Michigan Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO). Since animal fighting is a criminal enterprise that is closely connected to a host of other crimes that qualify under the RICO law, including illegal drug and weapons violations, gambling, aggravated assaults and gang violence, adding it to RICO is a strong way to enable law enforcement to go after it.

Read the bill.

Minnesota

Including Pets in Domestic Violence Protective Orders (SF 838/HF 1396)

Sponsor: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas/Rep. Michael Paymar
Status: House File 1396 was folded into a domestic violence omnibus bill, SF 2437, which was signed into law on May 10, 2010.

Summary: This bill would encourage courts to include domestic animals in domestic violence protective orders.

Read the bill.

Mississippi

Felony Animal Cruelty (SB 2074)

Sponsor: Sen. Bob Dearing
Status: Died in House Agriculture Committee

Summary: This bill was spearheaded by Mississippi Fighting Animal Cruelty Together (MS-FACT) and would have made aggravated cruelty to cats and dogs a felony with a maximum 5 year imprisonment and a maximum $10,000 fine. In addition, the court would have been required to order the convicted offender to pay restitution to the animal(s) owner and shelters/releasing/or law enforcement agencies directly involved in the case. The court could have required 1) psychological evaluation of the offender and necessary treatment; 2) that the offender's right to own any other animal is forfeited for a certain period of time; and 3) that animal control could make periodic unannounced visits to the offenders home to inspect any animal that the court may have allowed to stay with the offender. MS-FACT is planning to reintroduce the bill in 2011.

Read the bill.

Felony Animal Cruelty (SB 2623)

Sponsor: Sen. Billy Hewes
Status: Died in House Agriculture Committee on 3/2; Committee refused to take up the bill.

Summary: This bill is spearheaded by Mississippi Fighting Animal Cruelty Together (MS-FACT) and would make aggravated cruelty to cats and dogs a felony with a maximum 5 year imprisonment and a maximum $10,000 fine. In addition, the court would be required to order the convicted offender to pay restitution to the animal(s) owner and shelters/releasing/or law enforcement agencies directly involved in the case. The court could require 1) psychological evaluation of the offender and necessary treatment; 2) that the offender's right to own any other animal is forfeited for a certain period of time; and 3) that animal control could make periodic unannounced visits to the offenders home to inspect any animal that the court may have allowed to stay with the offender.

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