House OKs tougher animal abuse penalties
Lansing — Penalties against animal abusers would be stiffer under legislation the House overwhelmingly approved on Wednesday.
In a 90-15 vote, with some Republicans and Democrats opposed, the House approved legislation that would create different categories of animal abuse under state law.
Supporters say domestic violence and abuse can sometimes involve a family pet as a way to exert control over a person who loves the animal. In effect, violence against a pet can be an act of cruelty and control against a human being too, said bill sponsor Rep. Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming.
In 2011, a man from Conklin was charged with killing two horses after he suspected his wife was having an affair with the animals’ owner, according to an MLive story from the time. The incident left an indelible mark on Brann, whose wife also has a horse and dogs.
“Well, I mean, pets are companions,” Brann said. “Sue and I never had any kids, and our dogs were a big part of our family.”
Animal cruelty, he says, is a kind of double violence: It is first violence against the animal, but also psychological cruelty against an individual who has formed an attachment to that animal.
“About 30 years ago I was cleaning up a table, and the booth is still there – Booth No. 99 – and two girls were sitting there and they said a way to get even with somebody is to kill their dog,” Brann said. “That set me back, and I never forgot that. I took my name out of the phone book.”
Under the sentencing guidelines in the legislation, neglect or cruelty against an animal would mean 93 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. It would mean one year in prison and a $2,000 fine for the death of an animal or cruelty or neglect against two to three animals.
The penalties escalate to a maximum of 10 years in prison, depending on the number of animals hurt, the number of prior convictions and whether they were killed with the intent to provoke psychological distress in a human being.
Knowingly killing, torturing, mutilating, maiming, disfiguring or poisoning a companion animal to threaten or cause emotional pain to a person would be a first-degree offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to the bill.
The legislation keeps some penalties against animal abusers the same but adds three tiers to the sentencing guidelines, according to a House Fiscal Agency analysis.
The Michigan Humane Society, Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and Attorneys for Animals all testified in support of the bill during panel hearings on it. The Michigan Coalition to end Domestic and Sexual Violence, among other groups, also supported it.