Posted on Tue, Feb. 21, 2006
Senate panel OKs animal abuse billBY BRENT D. WISTROMThe Wichita Eagle
TOPEKA - A bill making it a felony to intentionally abuse an animal is expected to pass the Senate because of public outcry over two abused puppies.
Senate Bill 408, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously Monday, makes it a felony on the first offense for anyone who intentionally hurts or kills an animal. There are exceptions for common hunting and ranching activities and for vermin such as mice.
The bill now goes to the full Senate, where committee members predicted it will pass.
"This is a good day," said Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Democrat who has pushed harsher laws for animal abusers since four men videotaped a dog named Scruffy being burned alive in 1997.
More than 73,000 people in the Wichita area signed petitions this fall supporting tougher penalties for animal abuse after a puppy was found in a Wichita trash bin in August with chemical burns. The puppy, Magnum, died eight days later.
"What was done to Scruffy and what was done to Magnum... once we catch those offenders they should be prosecuted as felons," Haley said.
"I want them labeled or branded as felons," he said. "Society treats felons differently than we do those convicted of misdemeanors. I think the label on a job application... and as that person moves through society sends a signal that we take this issue seriously."
Those convicted also will have to undergo psychological evaluations, a move some criminal psychologists supported because many serial killers abused animals before moving on to more serious crimes.
"This is legislation with broad public support," said Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville. "This one is clearly called for."
Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, voiced concern over whether someone could accuse their neighbor of cruelty for leaving livestock out in the snow.
Committee Chairman John Vratil, R-Leawood, said common practices are allowed by the proposal. But he acknowledged that if the bill becomes law local prosecutors will have some leeway to determine what is abuse and what is common practice.
"There is an element of trust in this bill," he said.
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>'.'< Addison, Joseph (1672-1719) - True benevolence or compassion, extends itself through the whole of existence and sympathises with the distress of every creature capable of sensation.