ROCK SPRINGS — Some say a proposed bill to increase fines for animal cruelty is a step in the right direction while others say it is not enough.
Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, proposed a bill that would increase maximum fines from $750 to $2,500 for a first-time misdemeanor and $5,000 to $10,000 for a repeat misdemeanor offense or a felony.
“At the present time, they’re probably just right for our area,” Rock Springs Animal Control Supervisor Mike Kiggins said. “If you try pushing for much stronger laws then it will probably fail. I think we have to take it gradually.”
The maximum prison sentences from six months to two years would remain the same under the bill.
Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, said the proposed penalties are appropriate; however, he is concerned over whether or not the law contains adequate measures “to project our agricultural community from inappropriate applications of animal cruelty laws.”
“Animal cruelty has clearly been demonstrated to be an indicator of deeper psychological issues and is an issue that needs to be dealt with in a meaningful way and not swept under the proverbial rug,” he said.
According to state statute, a person is considered to have been cruel to animals if they:
• Knowingly and with intent to cause, death, injury or undue suffering;
• Have custody of an animal and unnecessarily fail to provide them with proper food, drink or protection from weather;
• Abandons the animal or fails to provide them with appropriate care if they are sick or injured, or
• Are involved in dog fighting.
The state has looked at several measures over the years addressing animal cruelty including in 2011 when the Legislature passed a bill that was signed into law adding household pet animal cruelty to the state statute.
“Owning a pet or livestock is a responsibility,” Rep. JoAnn Dayton-Selman said. “The issue is irresponsible owners. Will increasing fines and prison time change human behavior? I would like to see an education component included in the bill. “Being a pet owner, I deplore the abuse of all animals.”
The measure was assigned a bill number, Senate File 33, on Wednesday and it will be considered when legislators meet in January. The General Session starts on Jan. 8.
By Gregory R.C. Hasman
Rocket-Miner Via Wyoming News Exchange