ASPCA fights for more rights, protection for dogs and other pets

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HARTFORD--The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is trying to get two pieces of legislation passed during this session.

The organization held a lobby day at the Capitol Tuesday to make its priorities known.

Specifically, the first bill is a renewed effort by Representative Diana Urban to pass Desmond's Law. She named the bill after a former shelter dog named Desmond who was beaten, strangled, and killed. The person accused of hurting Desmond was able to avoid any jail time by applying for a pre-trial diversionary program for people with psychiatric problems.

Advocates say animal abusers often get away with a slap on the hand or no prosecution at all.

"Eighteen percent conviction rate," said Rep. Urban. "That says to me that we need to do a better job because we know that animal cruelty is an act of violence and we know it's a red flag for future violent behavior."

If the bill passed, UConn law students and others would be used as animal advocates in court for such cases.

"We think the most important things that have to occur, especially in this short session, are to ensure better enforcement of the cruelty laws, by having an advocate in the courtroom who can advocate for the interest of the animal or the interest of justice in the event the animal is deceased," said Debora Bresch, the ASPCA senior state legislative director.

Another bill would require proper shelter for pets kept outside for more than 30 minutes, or dogs that are confined. Owners in violation would have to pay hefty fines for leaving their pets chained or exposed to hot or cold conditions outside.

Other pieces of legislation that the group has advocated for in the past include to create an animal abuse registry similar to the ones kept for sex offenders, but that is not their goal this session.