(OnFocus) A new bill is proposing harsher penalties for pet abuse that would factor in a person’s intent when it comes to animal crimes.
Representative John Spiros (WI Assembly District 86) introduced the bipartisan bill with State Senator Jerry Petrowski in response to this year’s widely followed animal abuse case regarding a litter of puppies that were found abandoned in a Marshfield dumpster.
The man who put them there, Robert Wild, was allowed by court to keep his other animals but cannot own, possess, or train any additional animals for five years. In a court decision in September, Wild was found guilty of intentionally abandoning an animal, a class A misdemeanor, and sentenced to 30 days in jail with Huber work release. A second charge of Intentionally Mistreat Animals was dismissed.
A restitution hearing will take place Nov. 7 to determine whether he will pay over $5,000 to Marshfield Area Pet Shelter, which took over care of the puppies until their adoption.
The proposed Assembly Bill 520 would tighten penalties even if the abused animals were to survive, as happened in the dumpster puppies case.
“What it changes is basically intent, whereas currently the law doesn’t have intent,” said Spiros. “Another thing is, there’s nothing in the law that prohibits the judge from returning the pets back to the individual, and this would restrict that.”
Under the bill, those who commit an act of animal abuse would be guilty of a Class I felony if the abuse results in “grievous bodily harm” or the death of the animal, or if the abuse would reasonably result in either outcome regardless of whether these occur. This felony would carry a maximum fine of $10,000 or up to three and a half years in prison, or both.
In the dumpster puppy case, the puppies were discovered before they died, which would have meant a felony charge.
The bill would add that a court can order that a person convicted of a misdemeanor would not be able to reside with any animal for up to five years. For felony violations, the court can order a period of up to fifteen years. Under current law, a person who commits an act of animal abuse cannot own, possess, or train an animal for up to five years.
Spiros believes the bill will get a hearing, though it may take until 2020 for passage. The bill feels as timely as ever, given a similar case that occurred just this week, where five kittens were found abandoned in a trash can outside a residence in the town of Merrill.
“People have the choice whether they want pets,” Spiros said. “If you want a pet that’s fine, but take care of it. And if you don’t want a pet, that’s fine too. But a pet doesn’t have a choice once you say, I’m going to own you. People need to be smarter when they have these animals.”
Farm animals or working dogs are not included in the bill, which is intended for pets.