Connecticut animal activists lobbied hard in 2015 for bill to create a registry of those convicted of animal abuse. That bill failed but the activists have bounced back in force, reintroducing a registry proposal in February and filling the legislature with other proposals, activities, and ideas in support of animal rights.
A legislative task force on the humane treatment of animals proposed the new registry bill for 2016. Those convicted of abuse would be placed on the list and remain for five years, while businesses and agencies involved in selling or transferring animals, such as shelters and pet stores, would be required to check the registry before completing a transaction. Tennessee became the first to establish a such a registry on January 1.
The new bill has attracted support from a second state task force that has been studying the effect of domestic violence on children. That effort is headed by Karen Jarmoc, president of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who believes the registry can help her group’s efforts. “We’re continuously viewing opportunities to be responsive in unique ways to keep victims safe. At the end of the day it’s a very very credible evidence-based link here.”
There are volumes of research and data demonstrating those who commit violence against animals are much more likely, than others, to do violence to people. And according to Jarmoc, threats to harm the family pet are one technique abusers use to keep victims quiet. Her coalition has an agreement with the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association to provide temporary shelter for pets when women take refuge in their own shelter.
The state task force on children has provided support for animals in two other ways. it has drafted a report that calls for more training on the link between animal cruelty and child abuse. Connecticut law already allows cross-reporting of animal abuse and child abuse between the Department of Children and Families and animal control officials. The task force has also thrown its support behind a bill known as Desmond’s Law.
Desmond’s law would create a special advocate in Connecticut courts to actually represent the interests of animals in abuse cases, providing information and records to the judge. The bill is named after a former shelter dog who was tortured and killed while the person responsible somehow evaded any jail time. The bill was introduced several years ago and according to its author, representative Diana Urban, is designed to address the very low conviction rate – 18% – in Connecticut animal abuse cases.
The state chapter of the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals held a rally at the state capitol last Tuesday in support of Desmond’s law and another measure proposed in the 2016 session. The second bill would require proper shelter for pets kept outside for more than thirty minutes – those who expose pets to stressful temperatures, inside or outdoors, would have to pay serious fines.