At least four animals in Connecticut are being given a voice in court, thanks to the April 2016 passage of Desmond’s Law.
Desmond’s Law is named after a shelter dog who was starved, beaten and strangled to death in Branford back in 2012. Despite the prosecutor recommending prison time, the cruel man who killed Desmond was tried in such a manner his charges were dismissed, meaning they wouldn’t show up on a database as him being an animal abuser.
The conviction rate for animal cruelty in Connecticut is only 18-20%. Desmond’s Law, which began as HB5344, will basically allow advocates, volunteer lawyers or supervised students from Connecticut law schools to act as a representative to an abused animal on a voluntary basis.
Julie Shamailova, a second-year student from New York, and Taylor Hansen, a third-year student from Coventry are two advocates collaborating with UConn law professor Jessica Rubin.
Their primary role will be to assist the court, free of charge, in gathering information from animal control officers, veterinarians, and police officers. The hope of Desmond’s Law is that cases can be handled more thoroughly since there will be more hands out there to gather evidence. The team is also looking into the connection between animal abuse and future violence.
In an interview with Hartford Courant Rubin stated
“I think it’s significant that Connecticut is a leader so that our law and the way it’s implemented and used can be modeled for other states.”
There are currently two pending cases in Hartford Superior Court where Shamailova, Hansen, and Rubin are busy gathering evidence. One involves dog fighting involving three dogs. Two of the victims are in foster care and one had to be euthanized due to injuries received. The other case deals with cat abuse. The cat is with her owner, who isn’t the defendant in the case.
Connecticut has had an issue, not only with the small percentage of cruelty cases that end up in court but in judges giving “accelerated rehabilitation.” If there are no convictions, then the abusers never end up on a database. So when they commit a similar crime against an animal it doesn’t show up as a repeat offense.
Since animal cruelty offenses are now being counted alongside felony crimes such as arson, burglary, assault and homicide in the FBI database, it’s important the abusers are convicted so a record will show up somewhere, rather than it being hidden when that person gets a “slap on the wrist” for abusing a cat or dog.
Desmond’s Law is needed nationally. I urge you to contact your state representatives and present the idea to them. Too many abusers slip through the cracks. Allowing law students to act on behalf of the abused in animal cruelty cases is a step in the right direction in strengthening animal welfare laws.