Bill to toughen animal cruelty laws gaining ground at Capitol

by: Carl Willis Updated:


ATLANTA - A bill to toughen the law against animal cruelty is gaining traction at the Georgia state Capitol.
House Bill 863 passed the state House and is waiting to hit the state Senate floor.
The bill would especially help prosecutors in cases of starvation.
"Right now, law enforcement is really seeing a lot examples of really egregious neglect," said state Rep. Rich Golick, (R) Smyrna.
Golick told Channel 2's Carl Willis the current law doesn't have the teeth to help prosecutors go after offenders.
The bill would make it a felony to not provide adequate care, poison or torture animals even if they don't die.
"That particular portion of the bill has penalties of one to five years imprisonment on the aggravated cruelty and then it bumps up to one to 10 on a second offense," said Golick.
Mercy Lawler volunteers with Orphan Annie Rescue.
She said the proposed provisions could prevent cases like the one involving a boxer named Jesse.
He was surrendered by his owner at Fulton County Animal Services on Saturday, and was so malnourished that he looked like a walking skeleton.
The owner was not punished.
"This is not just ignorance on the part of people," said Lawler. "Clearly the dog is starving. The law would give body to that so we could actually do something to prevent this."
The bill passed through the state House with hardly any opposition, and passed the state Senate committee last week.
Now, the bill is in the state Senate rules committee waiting for clearance to go to the state floor.
However,  the clock is ticking with just a few days remaining in this session.
Golick said the bill spells out what is and what is not cruelty.
"People who are trying to do their best with animals, of course they're not the problem," he said. "It's the people who are purposely, intentionally mistreating the animals to the point where they're starving to death or being tortured or poisoned."
Lawler is on the front lines and believes change is needed.
"(Animals) don't have a voice," she said. "They can't say they're starving, so somebody has to for them."

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