OLYMPIA — On March 4, the state House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that could give animal lovers reason to celebrate.
Legislators agreed to toughen state laws regarding animal cruelty. Animal cruelty in the first degree involves intentionally inflicting substantial pain on, causing physical injury to, or killing an animal by a means that causes undue suffering, and it’s a class C felony.
Co-sponsored by Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace and Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, House Bill 1304 expands the crime of first degree animal cruelty to include starving, dehydrating, or suffocating an animal, causing it to suffer excessive pain or death.
These actions, currently under cruelty to animals in the second degree, are misdemeanors but will become felonies if the measure, which was on its way to the Senate as of The Enterprise’s deadline, is signed into law.
“Animals can’t defend themselves from cruel people,” said O’Brien, Chair of the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee. “That’s why we have to do it for them. There are people who neglect animals to the point of real cruelty. These offenses don’t fit within a misdemeanor crime.”
There are exceptions in the animal cruelty law, such as licensed research institutions; accepted husbandry practices in the commercial raising or slaughtering of livestock; the customary use of animals in rodeos or fairs; the killing of animals for food; and practices authorized under the “game laws.”