Connecticut did really right by animals with this law. But why haven’t other states picked up similar measures?
NY Times reports that Connecticut is the only state that allows animals to have a human voice in court. Essentially, a judge appoints a lawyer or law student to represent cats and dogs in cases of abuse, cruelty, and neglect. So, they have an advocate.
This law’s been in place for about a year now. Desmond’s Army, which formed in 2012 after a man beaten, strangled, and killed his dog. Instead of jail time, the judge sent the man to an accelerated rehabilitation program the following year.
Animal abuse advocates claim violence against animals can eventually turn into violence against humans.
Christine Kiernan, who co-founded Desmond’s Army, told the Times;
“This is not just about animals. It’s about stopping the cycle of violence, but it usually starts with animals.”
People like Kiernan hope this law also allows a greater chance for the abuser to answer for his or her actions. In some cases, the courts can dismiss them or opt for a more-lenient punishment. Animal advocates claim that’s because some courts believe these cases are less of a priority.
According to crime statistic data, 3,600 animal abuse cases went forward over the span of 10 years. However, only 18 percent ended in guilty verdicts. 47 percent were not prosecuted while the remaining 33 percent were dismissed.
So, by giving the animal a voice, it allows the judge to hear the extent of the abuse and hopefully make a more informed decision.
Representative Diana Urban, who co-sponsored the legislation, said that’s the exact reason why she supported this bill:
“What I really, really wanted to do was get at those numbers of convictions. They’re innocent. They don’t really have a voice, and they are, quote-unquote, a little weaker than you are.”
Unfortunately, this law still has a few kinks to work out and could use some assistance. The program is almost entirely run by volunteers, who tirelessly work to connect their 11 lawyers to animals in need of defending. And the way they find these potential four-legged clients is by skimming the news for leads or acting upon tipsters.
Thankfully, there seems to be more tipsters coming forward as the program gains more recognition.
Thompson G. Page, a lawyer who also works as an advocate, doesn’t seem to mind the uphill battle. He told the Times, “My job is to get the judiciary to treat animal cruelty as a serious crime.”
He added that his goal is to change the mentality of the judge from thinking, “it’s just a cat/dog” to that of a victim in need of justice.
Still, Connecticut remains the only state to have such a law in place. But, it’s not going unnoticed.
Lawmakers, legal scholars and animal activists nationwide keep a close eye on it to see if, eventually, it’ll be worth to introduce a similar bill in their state.
So, what do you think? Do you think more states should adopt similar legislation?