FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 28, 2018
Subject: Bills to increase penalties for animal cruelty approved by Snyder
Contact: Pam Sordyl, 734-718-7100
(LANSING, MI) Bills to increase penalties for animal cruelty targeting domestic violence situations, neglect of a large number of animals, and deliberate cruelty to companion animals were approved by Governor Snyder today after seven years of consideration by state law makers.
HB 4332 and HB 4333, sponsored by Rep. Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming), passed the senate 33 to 4 on December 13, 2018.
"Justice should include family pets because they could be used for manipulation or harm just like our loved ones on two legs," Brann said in a statement. "As a pet lover myself, it pains me that animal abuse continues to be a growing a problem in Michigan and we absolutely need to address it. I anticipate that this legislation will be a solution to address this awful problem.”
House Bill 4332 will amend (MCL § 750.50) by establishing first, second, and third degrees of killing or torturing an animal, while increasing the maximum prison term, enabling prosecutors and the courts to better protect the public from those who commit a form of animal abuse most closely linked to violence against humans.
Raj Prasad from the Wayne County Prosecutors Office provided testimony at the Senate Judiciary Hearing.
“These cases give us great pause, especially when you see targeted torturing and killing of animals used to control the victim or family members. When we realized the animal sections themselves do not allow for any real protection for the victim or animal, we began drafting the language.”
Currently, Michigan’s statutes prohibiting animal neglect and animal cruelty carry a maximum penalty of a felony conviction with punishment of up to four years in jail, fines, and/or community service. Now the maximum sentence will be 10 years.
The bill will also bring breeders and pet shops, both capable of possessing a large number of animals, under the law and give law enforcement additional options when dealing with animal hoarders.
HB 4333 provides additional sentencing instructions for various offenses related to animal cruelty.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, called for reform of the state's animal cruelty laws in 2012 after announcing charges in connection with two deplorable cases. One involving a Dearborn Heights pet shop, Pet Station, where more than 20 dogs, over 70 birds, guinea pigs, hamsters, frogs, snakes, lizards, tarantulas, chinchillas, mice and rats were seized.
"The laws on animal cruelty in this state are horrendous and need quick fixing," she said. "All the evidence will reveal this is a very serious case. The multitude of evidence resulted in one four-year felony; that is really criminal. The penalties should be much higher."
Another Wayne County case instigating reform involved a Rockwood resident who left six American Bulldogs abandoned in a home after moving to Flat Rock. Five of the dogs died.
According to the Senate Fiscal Agency summary report, there were 40 violations under these offense categories with zero offenders sent to prison and only five sent to jail in 2016.
“Courts need greater latitude to impose stronger sentences when the situation warrants it, and the possibility of stronger sentences will also send a message that such crimes will be taken seriously and thus may serve as a deterrent.” Ann Griffin, Michigan Humane Society.
Puppy Mill Awareness of SE Michigan has been tracking cases featured in the media involving pet stores, dog breeders and domestic violence while the bills were reintroduced each session highlighting a need for stronger laws:
(2018, Clarkston) Puppy tossed in bushes found covered in maggots with skull fracture from blunt force trauma
(2016, Eastpointe) Neighbors videotape man assaulting a dog
(2012, Dearborn Heights) More than 100 animals seized from deplorable conditions in a pet store
“Large pet stores like Petland Novi, display over 60 dogs and have continued to sell sick puppies for over ten years without licensing, inspections or enforcement of the Pet Shop or basic animal cruelty laws. With multiple civil lawsuits against Petland Novi outlining neglect, we expect the courts to review the cases and leverage these new penalties to deter other pet stores from selling commercial bred animals with illnesses and abnormalities.” stated Pam Sordyl, Founder of Puppy Mill Awareness.
Once in effect, the bills will:
· Create harsher felony penalties if a person abuses <10 animals.="" o:p="">10>
· Extend definitions to cover dog breeders and pet shop owners.
· Increase penalties up to 10 years in prison for deliberately killing or mutilating a companion animal to harm or threaten another person.
· Establish first, second, and third degrees of killing or torturing an animal, and increase the maximum prison terms.
· Allow a court to include at least five years probation involving 25 or more animals, or three or more prior convictions.
· Primary sponsor: Rep. Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming). Co-sponsors: Kimberly LaSata (R-St. Joseph), Peter Lucido (R-Washington), Steve Marino (R-Clinton Twp), Patrick Green (D-Warren), Jewell Jones (D-Livonia)
· Launched by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office
· Supported by the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, Michigan Humane Society, Attorney’s for Animals, ASPCA and the Genesee County Sheriff Office.