Proposed Bill to Impose Harsher Punishments for Animal Cruelty

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) -- A bill proposed by the Alabama House of Representatives' rules committee for Tuesday has to do with animal cruelty.

House Bill 27 is designed to increase the punishments for animal abuse.

Doug McGee of the 2nd Chance Shelter said many of their 300 dogs were abused.

"I would say probably half the dogs we get have been abused," McGee said.

"You can tell by the way they act.  They'll cower down, especially when men walk in and you just have to try to start building trust with them again," he said at the Boaz shelter.

House Bill 27 would make it a Class A misdemeanor to knowingly subject an animal to cruel neglect, and double the animal cruelty punishment from six months to 1 year in jail.

"Abuse to me is not feeding them, not giving them shade in the summer," McGee said.

"Not giving them water, that falls into line with abuse.  Just like we need shade and protection from the elements, they do too."

The proposed legislation also creates the crime of felony aggravated animal cruelty for heinous, atrocious, cruel, or torturous actions.  In 2012, the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranked Alabama as the 12th worst state for Animal Protection Laws.

Animal Cruelty

McGee hopes this law passes.

"Absolutely," he said.  "The more punishment they get for doing cruel acts to animals, the happier I am.  I'd like to administer some punishment myself, but that's not the way it is."

He used to be an Albertville police officer, and said many in law enforcement do not realize what they can do, as far as immediate action, when they see animal cruelty

"The tendency is to push it off on animal control," McGee said.

"Police officers have a right to act on animal cruelty just like any other state law. So maybe that will be part of it and police will take it on themselves, rather than call animal control or the Humane Society, they'll act and make arrests or whatever needs to be done."

He said the final responsibility will be on the courts, and said judges who like dogs tend to impose harsher sentences than those who don't care as much about animals.

He hopes punishments will be consistent and severe.

House Bill 27 would punish aggravated animal cruelty the same as dogfighting, with two to 20 years in prison and up to five-thousand dollars in fines.

The Humane Society ranks Alabama as third best in the country for dogfighting laws.

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