Animal cruelty cases drive bills

State legislators deferred a measure yesterday that would augment penalties against those found guilty of animal abuse.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Tommy Waters and Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee Chair Sen. Clayton Hee addressed animal cruelty legislation that would make it a felony to commit aggravated cruelty to “pet animals.”

Earlier this year, lawmakers removed the felony penalty from a nearly identical bill, House Bill 676.

HB 676 was amended in the House Judiciary committee with an augmented definition of “pet animal,” however.

Dale Bartlett, deputy manager of animal cruelty issues for the national humane society, said he is “confident” that legislators won’t water down Senate Bill 1665, which makes aggravated cruelty to pet animals a class C felony.

“I’m sure they’re going to make a good-faith effort,” Bartlett said, noting he hopes the Senate Judiciary and Labor committee will restore the felony penalty in HB 676.

Both versions of the proposed legislation come in the wake of several high-profile animal cruelty cases, including the slaughtering of Kipu the pig in Kilauea, the stabbing of Porky the pig in Mililani and the neglect of 20 dogs in Anahola, that led to the demise of three of them. Other Hawai‘i animal cruelty cases within the past decade include a parrot that was stomped to death in Kona and a German shepherd mix that was killed with a machete in Hilo.

“These are crimes that deserve serious punishment,” Bartlett said, noting fault with the current legislation.

“If somebody slashes up a $1,000 portrait of a dog, that would be a felony because of property value,” he said. “But if someone sliced up an actual dog, that would be a misdemeanor.”

Hawai‘i is one of eight states that doesn’t consider aggravated animal cruelty a felony. Other such states are Idaho, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.

No date has been set for legislators to reconvene on SB 1665.

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