On Monday, the Washington House of Representatives passed a proposed bill that would increase penalties for animal cruelty cases. The bill would elevate the punishment for first-degree animal cruelty. The bill passed 95 to 1. It now heads to the Senate for further consideration. State Representative Sam Low, a Republican representing the 39th legislative district, is sponsoring the bill.
“Elevating to a ranked crime would add it to the sentencing guidelines grid, creating consistency for the judges and prosecuting attorneys,” Low said.
“Inconsistency in sentencing only benefits abusers. House Bill 1961 would establish a clear legal framework for these horrific cases, ensuring those who inflict suffering on defenseless animals face consequences that reflect the severity of their crimes . . . Washington state should always stand for justice and compassion for all living beings. Through this bill, we have an opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless and deter future acts of cruelty. I am grateful for today’s vote and look forward to seeing the same outcome in the Senate.” ~State Representative Sam Low
The proposed legislation would enhance first-degree animal cruelty to a ranked felony. Ranked felony offenses have a seriousness level assigned to them. In short, higher-ranked offenses bring more serious consequences. These levels range from Level 1 (lowest level) to Level 16 (highest level). For a Level 1 offense, for someone with an offender score of zero, their standard range is 0-2 months, if convicted of the offense. By comparison, a Level 7 felony offense for someone with an offender score of zero, is facing a standard sentencing range of 15-20 months.
Surprisingly, animal cruelty is a complex phenomenon. It involves a multitude of different situational factors, motives, and other potential cause. The most frequently reported forms of animal cruelty are related to neglect. Denial of food, water, and veterinary care occurs in many cases. The most common forms of animal cruelty are the restriction of movement, insufficient food or water, abandonment, neglect, lack of veterinary care, and assault. There is no single type of companion animal cruelty offense, nor is there one typical type of companion animal cruelty offender.
There are, however, defenses to lower-level charges. For example, it is a defense to a charge of second degree animal cruelty that the defendant’s failure was due to economic distress beyond the defendant’s control. This can happen if the animal’s owner is indigent, impoverished and/or simply cannot afford to care for the animal.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.