South Carolina, where I reside, is striving for tougher animal abuse laws. The legislature has several bills concerning animals set to be voted on in the coming weeks. These include increasing penalties for abusers. The law in this state is so lax now as far as fines and jail time go, that it’s not a deterrent to animal cruelty. Banning the gassing of shelter animals is also on the agenda. There are still a few in the state who use this inhumane method.
The bill I’m most proud to support is to include animal in orders of protection. An order of protection is a document signed by a family court judge setting boundaries for a couple who just can’t get along. The abused states why she/he is afraid and the judge orders whether any type of contact can be made. The order includes whether or not contact may be made by phone, in person or by email.
There are many situations involving a woman (or man) and pets where the abused chooses to stay in a dangerous relationship rather than have to give up a pet. Unfortunately, this backfires more often than not and the pet is put in danger and sometimes killed by the abuser. Including the pet in the order of protection means the abuser can’t go near the person protected in the order, and the pet is also safe. Protection orders aren’t a guarantee to stop violence, but they do carry stiff penalties if violated.
The S.C. Legislature began in January and will conclude in a few weeks. Citizens of S.C. need to make our senators and state representatives aware of how seriously we take the treatment of our animals. Who to contact is determined by where you live in S.C. For a list of who to contact in the S.C. House and Senate, go to http://www.scstatehouse.gov.
It wouldn’t hurt for those of you in states with tougher animal cruelty laws to drop a few of these leaders a line or two stating how tougher laws are affecting animal abuse statistics in other states. Twenty two states, as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico, now have pet orders of protection in place. They are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Washington (D.C.), Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
I’m not aware of which shelters still use gassing in my state, but I’m sure a few still do or this wouldn’t be up for voting. As for animal abuse penalties, I haven’t heard of any that carried more than six months of jail time, regardless of the crime committed against an animal. Just because a law is on the books stating a stiff penalty doesn’t mean a judge will give the maximum allowed. This is one reason we need mandatory minimum sentences and fines.
Have any of the readers noticed a decline in animal abuse where you live once tougher laws were enforced? Comments anyone?