- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2009

BALTIMORE (AP) | A new task force will aim to strengthen Baltimore’s animal abuse laws after a pit bull was burned to death and a cat was killed with firecrackers in the city in recent weeks, the mayor announced Wednesday.

City officials, community members and animal welfare advocates will make up the 13-member task force, which will spend a year reviewing the city’s animal protection laws and working to improve them, Mayor Sheila Dixon said.

“This [task force] just reiterates the importance of engaging the community to be more involved,” Mrs. Dixon said. “That’s why you see so many community leaders here.”

The mayor and others at a news conference expressed concern over studies that show violence against animals can often lead to violence against people.

The group will make recommendations on legislation to protect animals and prosecute abusers and how to improve the city’s response to abuse cases.

The task force will meet monthly beginning July 15, and will be headed by Caroline Griffin, a Baltimore lawyer and longtime proponent of animal rights.

Animal Control director Bob Anderson said the fatal burning of the pit bull in May has sparked a slight increase in calls to report animal abuse. The cat was killed in early June.

Jo Sullivan, executive vice president of external affairs for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), said this is the first time her group has worked so closely with a city on curbing animal abuse.

“We don’t know what this plan will look like,” Ms. Sullivan said. “Collaboration is a tricky thing because the needs are so varied.”

In 2008, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell signed a bill making it illegal to confine animals in inhumane confinement - after a task force, with goals similar to Baltimore, presented recommendations.

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