Animal cruelty bill lacks sense of proportion

"Be it therefore enacted by the Kings's most excellent Majesty, and the lords spiritual and temporall, and the commons in this present Parliament assembled, that no person or persons whatsoever, shall ... plough, harrow, draw or worke with any horse, gelding, mare, garran or colt, by the taile ... (nor) pull the wool of any living sheep, or cause or procure to be pulled, instead of shearing or clipping of them ..."

-- An Act of the Irish Parliament, 1635 one of the first known animal cruelty laws

Now, we adore and pamper our animals as much as the next guy, but Senate Bill 223 is an overly expensive, overly punitive solution to a thankfully rare problem: animal cruelty.

The bill -- proposed by state Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, and supported by state Sens. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, and Mark Manendo, also D-Las Vegas -- ups the penalty ante on anyone who neglects, overworks, tortures, beats, injures, maims, mutilates or kills an animal, apparently domestic or otherwise, from a misdemeanor on first offense to a potential felony.

If an animal survives willful abuse, the crime is a class D felony punishable by "imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 4 years," plus a fine of up to $5,000.

If an animal dies of willful abuse, that's a class C felony punishable by "imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 5 years," plus a fine of no more than $10,000.

As Las Vegas police lobbyist Chuck Callaway pointed out to members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee this past week, SB223 would treat the crime of animal cruelty more harshly than first-time spousal abuse.

If that does not put it into perspective, Mr. Callaway said the bill would take animal abuse cases out of the hands of animal control officers and add to the duties of police. He estimated this could cost Clark County $2.5 million a year.

The committee hearing was attended by dozens of the law's proponents. No vote was taken; the committee has until April 15 to pass SB223 on to the full Senate or let it die.

The misdemeanor penalties in current law are sufficient. There is no need for this overreach and overkill, no matter how much we love our pets and animals in general.


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