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Amended animal cruelty bill approved by panel

CARSON CITY — A bill to make the torture or malicious maiming of an animal a felony crime punishable by at least a year in prison was approved by the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.

Members approved Senate Bill 223 after adopting amendments proposed by Metropolitan Police Department lobbyist Chuck Callaway.

Callaway had testified previously that the original version of the bill would produce a multimillion-dollar impact on his department because police officers, not animal control officers, would have to respond to many animal cruelty complaints.

Initially the bill proposed by Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, would have made willful and malicious animal cruelty — in which the animal doesn’t necessarily die — a felony. Callaway pointed out that first-time domestic violence, such as man beating a woman, would be a lesser crime, a gross misdemeanor.

Under the bill, the torture or maiming of an animal would be a class D felony, punishable by a one- to four-year term in prison, and a fine of as much as $5,000. Forty-four states now make extreme cases of animal cruelty felonies.

In addition, the amended bill would make it a class C felony, punishable by a one- to five-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine, to kill or torture an animal with the intention of terrorizing its owners.

Under the bill, a person who reports animal cruelty also could have his or her name remain confidential. This could be important in cases when a neighbor reports a neighbor, Callaway said.

He said the amended bill still would have a small cost for his department.

During a previous hearing, Washoe County animal control officers testified they expect only three to five cases of extreme animal cruelty a year would be punished as felony crimes.

Department of Corrections officials said earlier that no prisoner now is serving time for animal cruelty.

The bill was introduced through the efforts of Gina Griesen, a Southern Nevada woman who heads Nevada Voters for Animals.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, praised Griesen for her efforts and Callaway for coming up with a compromise that members could support.

Griesen wants to name the bill “Cooney’s Law” in honor of a 3-year-old dog killed last year by her Reno owner. He gutted the dog with a large knife, saying he wanted to remove a mouse that had crawled into the dog’s body. He received a misdemeanor sentence.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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