Michigan laws to increase penalties for animal abuse

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DETROIT, Michigan — Michigan will have stiffer penalties for animal abuse through legislation signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder.

The two state laws taking effect this month increase the maximum penalty for killing or torturing an animal from four years to 10 years in prison, The Detroit News reported. Judges will also be able to sentence those who harm or kill animals in order to cause emotional distress to another person to as much as 10 years.

Republican state Rep. Tommy Brann of Wyoming said he was inspired to sponsor the bills by a conversation he heard 25 years ago between two young women at a restaurant.

“They said the way to get even with someone is to kill their dog,” Brann said.

Brann said that conversation has stuck with him throughout the years. He said he hopes the bills urge judges to take animal abuse seriously, noting that pets can be like a loved one to people.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy supports the new legislation.

“The current laws are not sufficient enough to protect animals and hold offenders responsible for their conduct,” she said. “This is certainly a positive step forward.”

Animal abusers in Michigan typically avoid long prison sentences, according to an analysis by the state’s Senate Fiscal Agency. There were 40 violations in 2016, with no offenders sent to prison and five sent to jail, the agency found.

In one case, Lawanda Alford cut six of her boyfriend’s geckos in half and stabbed his pit bull to death. She pleaded guilty to animal abuse and was sentenced in January to 60 days in jail and three years of probation.

In another case, Timothy Crow, 24, was convicted of animal abuse in December for beating his mother’s dog to death. Judge Leo Bowman of Oakland County Circuit Court sentenced Crow to six months in jail.

Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor John Pietrofesa said the law restricted sentencing. He said he believed Crow’s history of mistreating animals indicates that he’ll “remain a danger to society.”

“As gruesome as that killing was, an equally disturbing fact was that the defendant video recorded it on his phone,” Pietrofesa said. “The dog can be seen looking into the cameras as it is dying. It is one of the most disturbing images I have ever seen … it is burned into my memory.”

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