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Indiana House passes Hatfield bill to protect animals

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INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana House members passed legislation authored by Representative Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville) that would increase the penalties against people who commit crimes against animals.

House Bill 1615 would tighten existing animal cruelty laws to make it more difficult for people to get away with mistreating animals.

The bill would raise base penalties for crimes such as abandoning or abusing an animal from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Level 6 Felony. A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000, while a Level 6 Felony includes penalties up to two and a half years of imprisonment. In extreme circumstances such as mutilating or killing an animal, the conviction would be raised from a Level 6 Felony to a Level 5 Felony, which is punishable for up to six years of imprisonment.

“Currently the worst charge someone can receive for animal cruelty is a Level 6 Felony,” Hatfield said. “This bill raises that charge to a Level 5 Felony and replaces the fixed minimum with a Level 6 Felony rather than a Class A Misdemeanor.”

At the beginning of February, police officers found a dog frozen to death in a dumpster on the east-side of Indianapolis. Because of current state animal cruelty laws, the owner of the dog was only charged with a Misdemeanor for animal cruelty and citations for improper care, mistreatment and unlawful disposal of an animal.

“This legislation appropriately punishes animal abusers and ensured we take animal cruelty seriously,” Hatfield said.

According to the National Sheriffs Association (NSA), people who abuse animals are people who will or do abuse human beings. The NSA also estimates that animal abusers are five times more likely than non-animal abusers to commit violent crimes against people.

 “FBI Profiler Robert Ressler says, ‘Murderers often start out by killing and torturing animals,’” Hatfield added. “There is a direct link between people who abuse animals and people who abuse other people. Thus, when we strengthen animal cruelty crimes to protect animals, we also protect our children.”

House Bill 1615 now moves to the Senate for further action.

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