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Animal Cruelty Bill Advances From Senate Committee

Bi-partisan Efforts Strengthen House Bill

(JUNEAU) -  In a display of bipartisan, cross-body cooperation, Representative Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage worked with Senator Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, and the Senate Judiciary Committee to merge two good bills to make one strong animal cruelty bill. As a result of the committee's action today, HB 6, from Representative Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, making bestiality a crime was amended to incorporate language from Sen. Wielechowski's SB 214, which increases penalties for the most heinous acts of animal cruelty.

Senator Wielechowski believes the amended version of HB 6 is a major step forward in efforts to stop abuse of people and animals.

"The links between domestic violence and sexual assault and acts of animal cruelty are clear and well documented," said Senator Wielechowski. "This bill goes hand in hand with the Governor's platform on Domestic Violence and provides one more angle for stopping these offenders before they do more harm to people."

Many individuals sharing a home with an abuser will report crimes against their animals before reporting crimes against themselves. HB 6 will ensure that these crimes will be considered when sentencing the offender for charges of domestic violence and sexual assault. Perpetrators of domestic violence and other violent crimes will have a much harder time trying to plea down their violent crimes to a misdemeanor. HB 6 ensures that sexual activities with animals will be punishable by law, stopping perpetrators before they go on to attack and sexually abuse children and other vulnerable individuals in our community.

"The House and Senate have worked in bi-partisanship to combine two good bills into one great piece of legislation and I'm proud of the results," said Representative Lynn. "My main concern is protecting the community, and stopping these horrific crimes against animals is a stair step in that process. I'm pleased this bill addresses appropriate punishment for sadistic people who violently abuse animals, and typically go on to abuse people."

Rep. Gatto's companion to SB 214 (HB 138), which recently passed out of House Judiciary also increases penalties for violent crimes against animals.

"The many of us who have cared for pets know that accepting that care means accepting a responsibility to protect the animals in question," said Representative Gatto. "We are constantly hearing reports not just of cruelty to animals, but actual torture. Cold-hearted torture of any kind is simply unacceptable and torture of animals is a precursor to torture of people. This bill puts a stop to such behavior and makes those who torture animals responsible for their actions, stopping them before they can do more harm."

"Combined, these bills strengthen the punishment for animal cruelty, while ensuring that violent acts of bestiality are punishable by law," explained Judiciary Committee Chair, Senator Hollis French, D-Anchorage. "This bill has been amended with a new provision which helps prosecutors of violent crimes against both people and animals use assaultive behavior and animal cruelty as aggravating factors at sentencing."

HB 6 goes next to the Senate Rules Committee, its final stop before a full Senate floor hearing.

(For more information, contact Senator Wielechowski or Shelly Morgan at 907-465-3723.)

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