A bill heard this week at the Montana Legislature would increase penalties for animal cruelty cases in the state, the number of which the bill’s sponsor says continues to increase.
At the bill’s opening hearing in the House Judiciary committee Friday, sponsor Democrat Dan Villa of Anaconda gave numerous examples of animal cruelty cases that happened in the state within the past year, like horses tied to trees left for starvation and dogs and puppies drowned in rivers.
“We’re not talking about a kitty being left out for an extra night or something like that. We’re talking about dozens of horses being abandoned and malnourished, hundreds of dogs being malnourished and abused. These are extreme cases.”
UM Legislative News reporter Natalie Neumann was on hand at Friday’s hearing. Click here or on the player below to listen to her report.
House Bill 349 would increase the penalties of second or more offenses of cruelty to animals and first or more offenses of aggravated animal cruelty. The fines would increase from 25 hundred dollars to 25 thousand with the maximum incarceration period changed from two years to five. The court may also take the animal away from the owner.
The offender would also undergo counseling . Yellowstone County Deputy Attorney Ingrid Rosenquist says this could prevent an individual’s behavior from escalating.
“You get them on supervision now, you get them the counseling now, you could prevent the next homicide, the next rapist. I know that seems like an extreme but that is the reality of these individuals.”
Villa says the bill would also change who pays for the upkeep of the animal.
“What we’re doing is that care to the animal we are passing on to the offender rather than under, as things are now the taxpayer’s picking up those costs via at a local governement.”
Committee members questioned that animal care costs may force people to become offenders of animal cruelty.
The bill would also add penalties to knowing spectators of animal fights.
The committee has not voted on the bill.
Natalie Neumann is reporting from the state capitol for the University of Montana’s Legislative News Service.