Report: Idaho, Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota have weak laws
What's the punishment for being cruel to an animal? In five states — Idaho, Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi and North Dakota — the law’s response is, “Not much.”
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Those five states have the weakest animal protection laws in the nation, according to a recent report by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization based in Cotati, Calif. The report says the states' failings include not requiring owners provide basic animal care such as adequate food and water, no requirement for mental health evaluations or counseling for those convicted of animal abuse and no restrictions on future ownership of animals following a conviction.
Three of the five states do not consider cruelty, neglect or abandonment a felony. And of the five, only North Dakota regards all animal fighting as a
felony, not just dog fighting.
People in these states aren’t more likely to mistreat their animals, says Stephan Otto, ALDF’s director of legislative affairs and author of the report, but the laws haven’t caught up with society’s values.
“Most people treat their animals wonderfully, but the question is whether there are appropriate penalties when they don’t,” he said.
In Mississippi, for instance, the penalties for neglect and dog fighting are the same: a fine of between $10 and $100 or jail time for between 10 and 100 days. Someone who maliciously injures or kills a dog or cat cannot be fined more than $1,000 or imprisoned for more than six months. The only restitution required is the replacement value of the animal, plus the cost of any veterinary fees or other expenses incurred. By contrast, in California, one of the states with tougher penalties, dog fighting is punishable by imprisonment for 16 months to three years, a maximum fine of $50,000 or both.
Kentucky vets not allowed to report abuse
In Kentucky, veterinarians are prohibited from reporting suspected cruelty or fighting, an unintended consequence of a law mandating client confidentiality. Otto says a bill was recently introduced to rectify the problem.