HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Alabama has found itself at the bottom of the rankings when it comes to its animal protection laws.
At 45th in the nation, animal rights groups are urging Governor Bentley to take a major step forward by signing House Bill 27. The bill would increase penalties for people who abuse or neglect their pets.
"We really want to get these laws strengthened so that animal cruelty is prosecuted like other criminal things," said Warren Candler, Executive Director of the Greater Huntsville Humane Society.
If signed by Governor Bentley, HB 27 would increase the penalty for animal cruelty to a Class A Misdemeanor. The maximum prison sentence would go up from six months to a year.
The bill also defines torture and abuse. Aggravated cruelty would be a Class C Felony,carrying a punishment of up to 10 years in prison.
If the penalty seems steep, Candler says consider this: animal abuse has long been seen as an indicator of a deeper issue, one that affects the entire community.
'It is well documented, there are classes on this now, and everybody knows that animal abuse generally leads to spousal abuse, abuse of children, and criminal activity," said Candler. "So if you protect the animals you are going to in fact protect the community."
While increasing penalties for animal cruelty has been a major cause for animal rights groups, this past session they have also pushed for a bill protecting low-cost spay and neuter clinics, and another that would protect people who report animal abuse.
Neither made it to the governor this legislative session.