We Americans love our pets. According to estimates from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), between 37 and 47 percent of all United States households own at least one dog while 30 to 37 percent of households own at least one cat with many owning more than one. These numbers equate to as many as 80 million dogs and 96 million cats owned as pets throughout the country. Companion animals, in the overwhelming majority of cases, are treated with love and care and are provided a comfortable life by their owners. When the animals develop a need, the owners step up and address it with appropriate veterinary care or other reasonable considerations. But, what about animals who are not in a loving home? What about those who are forced to suffer deplorable conditions and unimaginable cruelty? Who speaks for them? Thanks to a new law in Connecticut, abused animals can now be provided advocates for their interests in criminal cases regarding animal cruelty.
In a contested divorce between parents or a child custody dispute, Connecticut law provides a court with the authority to appoint a guardian ad litem to ensure that the child’s best interests are fully protected. With the enactment of measure known as Desmond’s Law—named for a dog that was beaten, strangled, and killed by an owner who served no jail time for his actions—a similar advocate can work on behalf of an abused animal in an animal cruelty case. Such advocates would be volunteer law school students or attorneys working pro bono who will be provided access to evidence and testimony and asked to provide recommendations to the court.
Desmond’s Law went into effect on October 1 and is the first law of its kind in the country. Proponents of the legislation are hopeful that by giving abused animals a voice in legal proceedings, there will be a decrease in the number of animal cruelty cases and an increase in the conviction rate of offenders. Supporters also indicate that there may be a domino effect in reducing incidents of animal cruelty, citing a link between violence to animals and future violence inflicted on other people. “Remember over 80 percent of school shooters started with animal cruelty,” said Representative Diana Urban, D-North Stonington and Stonington, one of the law’s sponsors.
Penalties for Animal Cruelty
According to Connecticut law, animal cruelty includes overloading, overworking, torturing, starving, mutilating, beating, or killing any animal. It is also includes failing to provide proper care, failing to prevent an animal from injuring itself or another animal, or depriving an animal of fresh air food or water. A conviction on animal cruelty charges carries up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in prison for a first offense. A second or subsequent offense carries a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison. A first offense, however, can result in more severe penalties if the behavior is deemed to have been malicious and intentional.
Contact a Defense Attorney
If you or someone you love has been accused of animal cruelty, contact an experienced Hartford criminal defense attorney for guidance. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we understand that facing criminal charges can be frightening and overwhelming and that the assistance of qualified legal counsel can be invaluable. Call [[phone1]] for a confidential consultation today.