The bill, which originated in the state House and passed that chamber on April 27, calls for a legal court advocate to represent the rights of abused animals during court cases. That advocate would help the judge with reviewed records, as well as keeping track of the defendant’s actions by speaking with veterinarians, animal control officers and police. The advocate would also provide recommendations to the court based on the animal’s interests.
Law school students or pro bono attorneys would represent the animals, meaning no additional cost to the state.
The state Senate passed the law on May 3.
The bill is named after Desmond, a dog that was beaten, starved, strangled and killed; his owner, Alex Wullaert, admitted to the violence after he was arrested. However, he got accelerated rehabilitation and avoided jail time.
“Once he served that accelerated rehabilitation it’s expunged from his record,” state Rep. Diana Urban, one of the sponsors of the bill, testified during a Judiciary Committee hearing in February. “So we have no idea he has done this.”
The American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals was part of the effort to get this bill to a vote in the Legislature.
Gov. Dan Malloy signed the bill on May 31. It will take effect October 1, 2016.
"This is an incredible victory for animals and it recognizes that animal abuse is part of a cycle of violence. It sets up a process for the courts to take animal cruelty seriously," Rep. Urban said in a statement. "It addresses cruelty to cats and dogs and the link to child abuse and domestic violence."
Urban said part of the importance of the bill is the low conviction rate in animal cruelty cases--between 2002 and 2012, only 18 percent of cases resulted in a conviction.