Anyone with a pet knows that providing an animal with basic needs, from food to veterinarian bills, isn’t cheap. Well, that applies for rescued animals who’ve suffered abuse too. When it comes to these seized animals, who should pay?
Agencies charged with caring for abused animals often struggle to care for them. Whether they’re flailing for shelter after a big bust or trying to cover the medical expenses of a seriously injured animal, law enforcement and animal welfare groups do their best for abused animals, but it can get expensive. That’s why numerous states require accused animal abusers to pay for the daily upkeep of seized animals.
Pennsylvania just joined that group when Governor Tom Corbett decisively signed H.B. 82 into law. This law requires defendants to pay up to $15 a day for upkeep, including shelter, food and other basic needs. If animals require extraordinary care, the accused may be required to pay more in order to support treatment. Veterinarians can evaluate individual cases to determine what kind of treatment is needed and how much it may add to overall costs. One important consideration with such cases aside from the need to help animals recover from abuse is the concern that they are also evidence in criminal cases, and their treatment needs to be carefully documented to help prosecutors hold criminals responsible for their actions.
Laws like this one take the responsibility off the public when it comes to funding treatment and care for abused animals, which is exactly as it should be; criminals should be responsible for the sometimes high costs of treating their victims. Such laws also serve as a warning sign to abusive individuals that they will be held accountable and their victims matter to the state as individuals, not just evidence. H.B. 82 will make it easier to enforce anti-cruelty laws in Pennsylvania in addition to reducing overcrowded shelters and making things more comfortable for the hundreds of animals seized every year in animal cruelty cases.
Somewhat unusually, H.B. 82 isn’t dependent on guilt or innocence. The clock starts ticking as soon as animals are seized, not when people are convicted of animal abuse. That means that if animals are taken from an abusive environment, the owner on record will be legally responsible for the financial burden of their care while the case is processed and taken to court. Talk about a stern reminder that crime doesn’t pay!
“In 2012, the Pennsylvania SPCA petitioned the courts for $744,000 in restitution for the costs of care, but received only $31,000,” the organization reports in a press release on the subject. This illustrates how important the bill is, and how much it will help with the often very high costs of managing treatment and placement of abused animals. Alleged abusers will also have the option of surrendering animals for adoption in lieu of retaining ownership and paying for care while they wait for their cases to reach the courts.
This has been a good summer for animal rights; neighboring New York just created the country’s first registry of animal abusers, a significant step to protect animals from abuse. By checking the registry, shelters and other agencies involved in the sale or adoption of animals can determine if a prospective owner has been convicted of animal abuse in the past, ensuring that animals are more likely to go to healthy, happy, safe homes. Looks like we’ll need to update our list of best and worst states in terms of animal cruelty laws!
Photo credit: Thinkstock