FAIRFIELD, Conn. — State Reps. Brenda Kupchick (R-Fairfield) and Diana Urban (D-Stonington) recently joined animal welfare advocates n calling on the legislature to pass Desmond’s Law.
The legislation would allow courts to assign volunteer legal advocates to assist in the prosecution of animal abuse cases. The bill has been named in honor of Desmond, a dog that was beaten, starved, strangled and ultimately killed by its owner, who then received accelerated rehabilitation.
“Far too many animal cruelty cases have been dismissed or nolled in our courts resulting in weakened sentences. When these cases are met with accelerated rehabilitation sentences, the public has no way of knowing about the nature of the arrest,” Kupchick said. “Placing animal advocates inside the courts to be a voice for defenseless innocent animals while sharing the serious nature of the violence could potentially change the judicial statistics, protect the public and at no cost to the state.”
From 2002-12, only 18 percent of animal cruelty cases in Connecticut yielded a conviction. The rest were either dismissed or state’s attorneys chose not to pursue them. Kupchick and other bill supporters hope having law school students act as courtroom advocates will provide prosecutors an additional resource and increase convictions.
Data from the Department of Correction and Department of Agriculture has shown a strong correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence.
“Desmond's Law would create an innovative new program for early intervention in the cycle of violence,” said Amy Harrell, president of Connecticut Votes for Animals. “In a time of shrinking budgets and limited resources, we have law students and attorneys eager to volunteer their services to the courts. Their efforts would benefit not only animals, but families, and ultimately contribute to the safety of our communities.”
“Animal cruelty needs to be taken seriously by our police, prosecutors and courts," said Gordon Willard, executive director of the Connecticut Humane Society. "Advocating for the animals in court is a way to satisfy justice and to protect other animals and people from the same fate.”
The Judiciary Committee approved the bill in March; it now goes to the full House of Representatives.
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