Legislature Takes Up Animal Cruelty Bill

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(Host) The Senate gave its preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would crack down on cruelty to animals. The bill is designed to make it easier for law enforcement officials to take action when a pet is abused. Senate approval came after the bill’s sponsor withdrew a section that contained specific requirement governing the size of doghouses.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Supporters of the bill say law enforcement officials have long been hampered by the vagueness of Vermont’s animal cruelty laws. They say this bill clarifies what constitutes abuse. Pamela Dein is with the Humane Society. Dein says animal abuse is a problem with serious social repercussions:

(Dein) "It’s well established, the link between children and teenagers who commit acts of cruelty and those who grow up to commit acts against society, domestic violence."

(Zind) The bill mandates a psychiatric evaluation for any juvenile found guilty of animal abuse. It also requires that so-called "animal hoarders" submit to counseling and psychological evaluation. A hoarder is a person who keeps five or more animals under cruel conditions.

The bill received preliminary approval when its sponsor removed a controversial portion. That section would require that doghouses meet certain specifications based on the animal’s size as measured from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail. That part of the bill has been the subject of some jokes around the State House, but Essex-Orleans Senator Vincent Illuzzi says the dog house section has been misrepresented:

(Illuzzi) "The law that deals with houses for cats and dogs deals only with circumstances where the animal is kept in that enclosure 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So most people would not be impacted or covered by that guidance."

(Zind) Illuzzi says he’ll rewrite the controversial section and submit it as an amendment when the bill comes up for final approval in the Senate on Friday.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Montpelier.

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