Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/12/2010 01:30 PM JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
<Bill Hearing Postponed>
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
Moved HB 307 Out of Committee
Moved CSSB 210(JUD) Out of Committee
                   SB 214-CRUELTY TO ANIMALS                                                                                
2:15:23 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR FRENCH announced the consideration of SB 214.                                                                             
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI,  sponsor of SB  214, said the  link between                                                               
animal cruelty,  domestic violence  and other violent  crimes has                                                               
been well documented  since the 1970s. SB  214 works hand-in-hand                                                               
with  the  governor's  platform   against  domestic  violence  by                                                               
increasing  the  punishment to  a  felony  offense for  the  most                                                               
heinous  crimes   of  animal  cruelty.  The   bill  provides  the                                                               
opportunity  to  identify  and punish  perpetrators  of  domestic                                                               
violence early on,  before they can do further harm  to people in                                                               
the community.                                                                                                                  
Currently, animal cruelty is a  misdemeanor offense and a class C                                                               
felony on the  third offense if it occurs within  10 years. Forty                                                               
five other  states have animal  cruelty provisions with  a felony                                                               
on the  first offense. Alaska is  the only state that  requires a                                                               
third offense  prior to triggering  the felony clause.  This bill                                                               
will amend current  statute to ensure that the  most heinous acts                                                               
of animal  cruelty are a felony  on the first offense.  This bill                                                               
creates  a   felony  animal   cruelty  provision   for  knowingly                                                               
inflicting severe and prolonged physical  pain or suffering on an                                                               
animal  or for  killing or  injuring an  animal by  the use  of a                                                               
decompression chamber  or poison. By comparison,  the penalty for                                                               
a serious injury of a person is  typically a class A or a class B                                                               
felony.  The penalty  for  killing  a person  with  poison is  an                                                               
unclassified felony.                                                                                                            
SB 214  also creates a  class A  misdemeanor for a  first offense                                                               
and  class  C felony  for  second  offense  within 10  years  for                                                               
failing to care for an  animal with criminal negligence resulting                                                               
in death,  severe pain or  suffering or for knowingly  killing or                                                               
injuring an  animal with  the intent  to intimidate,  threaten or                                                               
terrorize  another   person.  By  comparison,  the   penalty  for                                                               
negligent child endangerment is a  class C felony and stalking is                                                               
a class A  misdemeanor on the first offense and  a class C felony                                                               
on  the  second offense.  In  nearly  all these  provisions,  the                                                               
penalties for  crimes inflicted on  humans are much  greater than                                                               
the penalties  for crimes inflicted  on animals. The  penalty for                                                               
stalking, however, is  the same as that for  knowingly killing or                                                               
injuring an  animal with the  intent to intimidate,  threaten, or                                                               
terrorize  another person.  The provision  for animal  cruelty is                                                               
essentially  one component  of  stalking  or terrorizing  another                                                               
2:18:13 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI highlighted that  in Alaska, stealing a $500                                                               
purebred  dog or  vandalizing a  $500  portrait of  an animal  is                                                               
currently  a Class  C felony,  but killing  or severely  injuring                                                               
that same  pet is only a  class A misdemeanor. This  doesn't make                                                               
sense, he said.                                                                                                                 
As  previously  mentioned, there  is  a  direct and  proven  link                                                               
between crimes of  domestic violence and animal  cruelty. Over 70                                                               
percent of pet owners entering  domestic violence shelters report                                                               
that  their batterer  had threatened,  injured, or  killed family                                                               
pets.  Over  90  percent  of   violent  attacks  on  animals  are                                                               
committed in  the presence  of a  partner or  a family  member to                                                               
seek  revenge  or control.  SB  214  provides an  opportunity  to                                                               
prevent  further  violent  acts by  identifying  those  dangerous                                                               
individuals  before they  can do  more harm  to both  animals and                                                               
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI  noted that  SB  214  is supported  by  the                                                               
Alaska  Department  of Public  Safety,  the  Council on  Domestic                                                               
Violence and Sexual Assault, Alaska  Network on Domestic Violence                                                               
and   Sexual   Assault,   Alaska  Veterinary   Association,   the                                                               
Municipality  of Anchorage  Animal  Control  Advisory Board,  the                                                               
Humane   Society  of   the  U.S.,   the  Alaska   Peace  Officers                                                               
Association, and many other groups and individuals.                                                                             
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI related  two recent  instances of  violence                                                               
and animal  cruelty in this state  to show why it's  time to join                                                               
45  other  states  and  allow felony  prosecution  for  the  most                                                               
despicable acts of animal cruelty.                                                                                              
2:22:28 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  FRENCH recalled  that animal  cruelty has  to rise  to the                                                               
level of torture for it to be a felony.                                                                                         
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI said  it's essentially  torturing on  three                                                               
2:23:48 PM                                                                                                                    
DOUG MOODY,  Attorney, Public Defender Agency,  Alaska Department                                                               
of Administration, said  he is available to  answer questions and                                                               
that the PDA seconds Ms. Carpeneti's testimony.                                                                                 
COLONEL  AUDIE HOLLOWAY,  Alaska  State  Troopers, Department  of                                                               
Public  Safety (DPS),  said that  domestic violence  perpetrators                                                               
use  threats  or  violence  to  pets  to  coerce  their  victims.                                                               
Numerous  studies  show that  cruelty  to  animals is  linked  to                                                               
crimes against  persons. The  troopers receive  frequent requests                                                               
to investigate  animal cruelty ranging  from starvation  to using                                                               
animals  for target  practice. Because  of other  priorities they                                                               
are  unable  to  investigate  most   of  those  cases.  Hopefully                                                               
increasing the  penalties will cause perpetrators  to think twice                                                               
about committing these acts, he said.                                                                                           
2:25:30 PM                                                                                                                    
JACKIE KAHN, Detective, Anchorage  Police Department, said she is                                                               
the point  of contact for  animal cruelty cases and  she believes                                                               
that people  don't realize  how much animal  cruelty goes  on. In                                                               
less  than two  years  she  has reviewed  at  least  60 cases  of                                                               
reported  animal cruelty  ranging  from neglect  to torture.  She                                                               
highlighted  the point  that people  that commit  acts of  animal                                                               
cruelty  are statistically  linked  to other  violent crimes  and                                                               
other  criminal   activity.  I've   seen  that  in   practice  in                                                               
Anchorage, she said.  SB 214 is an important bill  that will help                                                               
keep these people from committing future crimes.                                                                                
2:29:11 PM                                                                                                                    
KAYLA  EPSTEIN,   member,  Anchorage  Animal  Care   and  Control                                                               
Advisory Board, said the board  unanimously supports SB 214. Most                                                               
people want  to protect  small helpless  creatures from  harm and                                                               
pedophiles know and take advantage  of this. While people like to                                                               
think that pedophiles are strangers,  the fact is that 70 percent                                                               
are  either family  members  or someone  that  the family  knows.                                                               
Abuse of animals  is an aid to perpetrators in  cases of domestic                                                               
violence.  They use  abuse  or threats  of  abuse to  demonstrate                                                               
power  and   control,  to  isolate,   to  force   submission,  to                                                               
perpetuate an  environment of  fear, to  prevent the  victim from                                                               
leaving or to  coerce them to return, and to  punish a victim for                                                               
leaving  or for  showing independence.  71 percent  of pet-owning                                                               
women entering  shelters report that their  batterer has injured,                                                               
maimed,  killed,  or  threatened   family  pets  for  revenge  or                                                               
psychological control.  In those cases,  87 percent of  the women                                                               
witnessed the abuse  and 76 percent of children  were witness. 25                                                               
percent of  abused women  will not leave  their situation  out of                                                               
fear for the animals they care  about. In homes where a spouse is                                                               
abused, child abuse is twice as  likely to occur if there is also                                                               
animal  abuse.  Increasing the  penalty  for  animal abuse  to  a                                                               
felony would give  prosecutors one more weapon to  fight the very                                                               
difficult domestic violence and sexual abuse of a minor cases.                                                                  
2:33:49 PM                                                                                                                    
RONNIE  ROSENBERG, Chair,  Fairbanks  North  Star Borough  Animal                                                               
Control Commission,  said she is  also the founder  and president                                                               
of the Fairbanks Animal Shelter Fund.  From time to time over the                                                               
years  they have  seen egregious  animal abuse  and it's  time to                                                               
join the other 45 states and  prosecute them on the first offense                                                               
as a  felon. These events  are very  disruptive to the  fabric of                                                               
neighborhoods and communities.                                                                                                  
MICHELE GIRAULT,  Friends of Pets, Anchorage,  stated support for                                                               
SB 214.  She reported having  received many calls over  the years                                                               
from  women whose  pets had  been killed  by their  partners. The                                                               
link between violence  toward pets and violence  toward women and                                                               
children is better  recognized now and she  believes that passing                                                               
this  bill will  help address  other violent  issues and  perhaps                                                               
save a child  or woman from being battered. Alaska  needs to take                                                               
a stand and make animal cruelty a felony, she said.                                                                             
2:37:34 PM                                                                                                                    
ADAM  PARASCANDOLA,  Director,  Animal Cruelty  Campaign,  Humane                                                               
Society  of the  United States,  stated  support for  SB 214.  He                                                               
cited a study  released by the Chicago Police  Department in 2008                                                               
that  found "a  startling propensity  for offenders  charged with                                                               
crimes against  animals to commit other  violent offenses towards                                                               
human victims."  Investigators examined  the criminal  records of                                                               
animal cruelty  and animal fighting  arrestees and found  that 86                                                               
percent  had  two or  more  past  arrests,  70 percent  had  been                                                               
arrested  for felonies  including homicide,  70 percent  had past                                                               
narcotics arrests, and  65 percent had been  arrested for battery                                                               
crimes. A Canadian  police study similarly found  that 70 percent                                                               
of  those  arrested  for  animal cruelty  had  prior  records  of                                                               
violent crimes  including homicide. This research  makes it clear                                                               
that  people who  are capable  of  atrocious acts  of cruelty  to                                                               
animals  are similarly  dangerous to  humans and  communities. He                                                               
noted that  after the  District of Columbia  passed a  felony law                                                               
against animal cruelty the first  case he investigated was linked                                                               
to  domestic violence.  SB 214  is reasonable  and practical,  he                                                               
2:40:44 PM                                                                                                                    
SALLY   CLAMPITT,  Executive   Director,   Alaska  SPCA,   stated                                                               
enthusiastic support  for SB 214.  Alaska SPCA  receives numerous                                                               
calls from  across the  state reporting  incidents of  cruelty or                                                               
inhumane treatment  of animals,  particularly dogs.  Local animal                                                               
control ordinances  are frequently weak and  ineffective and when                                                               
there is  no enforcement  agency these cases  are handled  by the                                                               
state  troopers that  have many  other  pressing obligations.  If                                                               
animal cruelty  were a felony  on the  first offense and  the law                                                               
was  energetically and  decisively enforced,  the word  would get                                                               
out. It would  likely be an effective and  long-term deterrent to                                                               
people  who commit  heinous acts  against animals.  Alaska has  a                                                               
long history of having some of  the worst animal cruelty laws and                                                               
SB 214  would bring  it closer in  alignment with  legislation in                                                               
other   states.  This   is  appropriate   as  there   is  growing                                                               
intolerance for animal cruelty.                                                                                                 
2:43:26 PM                                                                                                                    
DR.  MYRA   WILSON,  Veterinarian,  Anchorage  Animal   Care  and                                                               
Control, stated support for SB  214. She could reiterate previous                                                               
testimony  from an  animal control  perspective.  Her agency  has                                                               
seen numerous cases  of animal cruelty and would like  to see all                                                               
the   hard  work   that  APD,   animal   control  officers,   and                                                               
veterinarians put into these animal  cruelty cases result in more                                                               
stringent penalties.                                                                                                            
2:45:16 PM                                                                                                                    
ANNE CARPENETI,  Attorney, Criminal  Division, Department  of Law                                                               
(DOL), said  the department  isn't taking a  position on  SB 214,                                                               
but in  the past it has  testified in opposition to  felony level                                                               
penalties  for animal  cruelty.  She reported  that  in 1978  the                                                               
Criminal Code  Revision Commission debated whether  or not animal                                                               
cruelty should be  a felony and the majority decided  it ought to                                                               
be  resolved as  a class  A misdemeanor.  The maximum  penalty of                                                               
which is one year  in jail. Over the years DOL  has held that the                                                               
prosecution of animal  cruelty cases should be  less serious than                                                               
the prosecution of assault and other offenses against humans.                                                                   
MS.  CARPENETI  said  Senator Wielechowski  is  correct  when  he                                                               
points to the  elements of the offenses. Murder of  a human being                                                               
is  a higher  level than  a  class A  misdemeanor. Torturing  and                                                               
killing a  person is an  unclassified felony that  would probably                                                               
bring  a mandatory  99 years  in  jail. However,  the reality  of                                                               
criminal  prosecution of  crimes  against people  in this  state,                                                               
particularly domestic  violence crimes, is  that they tend  to be                                                               
resolved as class A misdemeanors  - assault in the fourth degree.                                                               
Not until  the third assault  in the  fourth degree within  a ten                                                               
year period does one get a  class C felony. DOL's concern is that                                                               
crimes  against   people  generally  get  resolved   as  class  A                                                               
misdemeanors.  It's   an  issue  of  parity;   humans  should  be                                                               
protected more seriously than animals.                                                                                          
CHAIR FRENCH said  he's surprised, given the  governor's focus on                                                               
domestic violence, that he or  the attorney general isn't willing                                                               
to rethink that historical opposition.  He doesn't believe anyone                                                               
is  seeking parity  between harm  against pets  and harm  against                                                               
humans, but  he knows  that many  serious assaults  against women                                                               
and children  that resolve  as misdemeanor do  so because  of the                                                               
leverage a  potential felony conviction affords.  If this becomes                                                               
law, many  felony animal cruelty  charges will  similarly resolve                                                               
as misdemeanors, but with less fuss and muss, he said.                                                                          
2:49:43 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. CARPENETI said  that's probably true. It's  clear that animal                                                               
cruelty  should be  taken seriously  because  the evidence  shows                                                               
that  it is  a gateway  crime  to domestic  violence. However,  a                                                               
gateway crime  shouldn't have  a larger  penalty than  the target                                                               
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI  said it's  factually incorrect to  say that                                                               
these proposed  penalties are  at parity  with the  penalties for                                                               
similar  acts  committed  against  humans.  Knowingly  inflicting                                                               
severe and  prolonged pain or suffering  on an animal would  be a                                                               
class  C felony.  A  similar  act committed  against  a human  is                                                               
either  a  class   A  or  a  class  B  felony   and  possibly  an                                                               
unclassified felony. Killing  or injuring an animal  by poison or                                                               
decompression chamber  would be  a class C  felony, which  is the                                                               
lowest  form  of  felony.  Doing  the  same  to  a  human  is  an                                                               
unclassified felony.                                                                                                            
2:51:52 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. CARPENETI  said, "It could be  that since 1978 our  state has                                                               
matured and gotten to a point  where animal cruelty ought to be a                                                               
felony."  I was  simply  giving the  historical perspective,  she                                                               
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI  said   he  has  a  big   problem  if  this                                                               
administration  is  allowing  criminals who  inflict  severe  and                                                               
prolonged pain  and suffering on other  humans to plead out  to a                                                               
misdemeanor. Let  me know if  you need more resources  to address                                                               
that, he said.                                                                                                                  
CHAIR FRENCH announced he would hold SB 214 in committee.                                                                       

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 214 sponsor statement.pdf SJUD 2/12/2010 1:30:00 PM
SB 214
Nat Coalition Agains Dom Viol.PDF SJUD 2/12/2010 1:30:00 PM
SB 214
Humane Society.PDF SJUD 2/12/2010 1:30:00 PM
SB 214
HSUS Letter of Support - SB 214.pdf SJUD 2/12/2010 1:30:00 PM
SB 214
SB252 Letter.PDF SJUD 2/12/2010 1:30:00 PM
SB 252
SBS 252 Sectional Analysis.PDF SJUD 2/12/2010 1:30:00 PM
SB 252