The American Kennel Club (AKC) submitted a letter of concern and recommended certain amendments to House Bill 607, which seeks to impose mandatory minimum penalties for a first offense of cruelty to animals. AKC is concerned that the bill could result in reduced, rather than enhanced, enforcement of animal cruelty laws.
AKC supports full enforcement of animal cruelty laws, and appropriate penalties for persons convicted. However, if available penalties are not appropriate for the level and seriousness of the offense, we are concerned that it could result in a reluctance to charge, prosecute, and sentence a first-time offender.
For example, under Louisiana law, failure to provide an animal with a proper drink is an animal cruelty offense. Such a situation requires action to ensure the well-being of the animal. However, a spilled water bucket that results in no harm to an animal is quite a different offense than cruelly beating or causing unjustifiable physical pain, suffering, or death to an animal. Therefore, in cases where no animal was harmed, we suggest that alternate penalties, such as court-ordered community service for a first-time offender, may also be appropriate.
Accordingly, AKC opposes reducing a court’s discretion in determining sentencing for animal cruelty offenses, as would be provided in HB 607.
AKC also recommended a clarifying amendment to HB 607 to provide that a court may order the offender to pay for reasonable expenses incurred for medical treatment of the animal for injuries or illness that result from the offense for which the offender is convicted.
HB 607 is on the agenda of the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice tomorrow, April 6, 2022, at 9:30am. Louisiana residents who wish to comment on the bill are encouraged to contact committee members.
For additional information, please contact AKC Government Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-816-3720.