Dogs, cats, and other animals now have stronger protections against being physically harmed or neglected, thanks to a newly-passed law that toughens criminal animal cruelty penalties.

First-degree animal cruelty is already considered a Class C felony in Washington, but the new law comes with tougher penalties — including possible imprisonment of up to five years and fees of up to $10,000 per animal.

Before the changes to the law, only perpetrators who sexually abused animals qualified for the tougher penalties.

Now, animals have gained stronger protections by the law more clearly defining the “undue suffering” of animals due to physical abuse and/or severe neglect — including starvation, dehydration, and keeping animals outside in extreme temperatures that lead to pain or death.

Adding physical harm and severe neglect will help prosecutors and judges consistently convict perpetrators and allow tougher penalties for those with multiple offenses.

Law enforcement increasingly recognizes that many of those who harm animals also harm humans, especially in domestic settings. 

Strengthening animal cruelty laws is an important, common-sense step towards not only protecting animals, but also those who love them.

Lady Freethinker applauds the state of Washington for taking this important step in treating animal cruelty as the serious crime it is and helping to protect future animals.