- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Animal welfare advocates spoke Friday in support of a Nebraska measure that would prohibit people convicted of neglecting an animal from owning any for up to five years.

Currently, those convicted with misdemeanor cruel mistreatment can be ordered not to own, possess or reside with any animal for up to five years. For misdemeanor cruel neglect, there is no provision that allows a judge to impose such a restriction, said Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who introduced the bill.

The main difference between the two types of cruelty is the way they are inflicted, but along the way, the animal may suffer equally, Chambers said.

A person can be convicted of cruel mistreatment for intentionally killing, maiming, beating or otherwise harming an animal, whereas cruel neglect involves the failure to provide an animal in one’s care with food, water or other needed care.

In his opening on the bill, Chambers cited a case in Lancaster County. A woman who operated a puppy mill in Malcolm kept dogs in what a judge called “an animal Auschwitz.”

The proprietor pleaded no contest to misdemeanor animal neglect. The judge could only impose ownership restrictions as a condition of probation.

Mark Langan, vice president of field operations for the Nebraska Humane Society, told the Judiciary Committee that dogs from the Malcolm puppy mill had ear and eye infections, skin conditions and infected wounds. Some dogs had missing lower jaws, he said.

Carol Wheeler, founder of Hearts United for Animals, said the shelter took most of the dogs from the case.

If the bill’s changes had been in place then, “justice would have been far better served,” she said.

No one testified against the bill and the committee took no immediate action.

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The bill is LB674

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