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ALERT UPDATE: AMENDED VERSION OF SB 366, REGARDING FELONY PROVISIONS FOR THE MISTREATMENT OF ANIMALS, PASSED IN THE SENATE

Updated 10/17/2021
 
 

     Thank you for all of your phone calls, public hearing testimony, and emails! The good news is, the State Senate passed SB 366 on 9/28/21. The bad news is, it was passed with a controversial amendment that, while in some ways further strengthens the bill, also further emphasizes the exemption for hounders.

     The decision to support or oppose the amended version of this bill is a very difficult one. Each organization and individual must decide for themselves which direction they want to take. We respect the decision of those who feel that they cannot, in good conscience, support the amended version of SB 366 or the addition of the amendment to AB 368.

      While we do agree in principle that this law's protections should apply equally to every animal under its scope, given the circumstances -- and after a lot of thought, discussion, and soul-searching -- we have decided we will cautiously continue to support passage of what we consider to be an otherwise excellent protection for all other animals in Wisconsin.

      Please read and consider carefully the commentary and information below so that you can make your own informed decision.


 pawprint bullet point   Bill Text   pawprint bullet point   Bill History   pawprint bullet point   Bill Summary   pawprint bullet point   Amended Bill   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point  Bill Amendment Memo   pawprint bullet point   TAKE ACTION    pawprint bullet point   Talking Points   pawprint bullet point

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Injured dog with broken leg     On 5/25/2021, a VERY important bill was introduced into the WI State Senate: SB 366, relating to: Felony provisions for the mistreatment of animals. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety. A public hearing was held on September 9th; a controversial amendment was offered by Sen. Wanggaard on 9/14, and the amended bill was passed out of committee on 9/16. It was passed by the full Senate on 9/28/21.

 pawprint bullet point   Committee Hearing on SB 366 Proceedings   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Committee Hearing Materials for SB 368 (PDF)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Amended Bill   pawprint bullet point   Bill Amendment Memo   pawprint bullet point   Amendment Summary   pawprint bullet point

     On 5/27/2021, the companion bill, AB 368, was introduced into the WI State Assembly. It was referred to the Assembly Committee on Judiciary. A public hearing was held in late August. On 9/21/21, Rep. Spiros presented an amendment to AB 368 to make it once again consistent with SB 366 as passed. The Committee has not yet met to vote.

 pawprint bullet point    Committee on Judicary Hearing on AB 368 Proceedings (PDF)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Assembly Committee on Judiciary Hearing Materials for AB 368 (PDF)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to Assembly Bill 368   pawprint bullet point

     SB 366/AB 368 started with a strong BIPARTISAN support, though the addition of a controversial amendment has eroded that somewhat. Original cosponsors of the bill included: Senators Wanggaard, Carpenter*, Cowles, Jacque, and Smith*; and Representatives Spiros, Armstrong, Baldeh*, Brandtjen, Cabral-Guevara, Callahan, Dittrich, Duchow, Gundrum, Kitchens, Milroy, Moses, Pronschinske, Schraa, Sinicki*, Skowronski, Snodgrass*, Steffen, Tusler, Zimmerman, Edming, and Ohnstad*. (*Representative Baldeh withdrew as a coauthor on 8/24/21; Senators Carpenter and Smith withdrew on 9/27/21; Representatives Ohnstad, Sinicki and Snodgrass withdrew on 10/14/21. )

     SB 366/AB 368 would:

  • Make it a Class H felony if someone abuses an animal and it results in grievous bodily harm to or the death of the animal, and a Class I felony if someone commits an act of animal abuse that they know or should reasonably know may result in grievous bodily harm or death of an animal, regardless of whether that harm or death actually occurs. (Please note that the language of the bill states "an animal," which includes pets of all kinds, other domestic animals -- and even encompases torture of wildlife.)

  • Provide a detailed description of the term “grievous bodily harm,” defining it as “serious bodily injury, including fractured or dislocated bones, deep cuts, burns, torn members of the body, tissue damage as a result of exposure to cold temperatures, serious damage to internal organs, starvation, or other severe bodily injuries." This definition makes animal abuse complaints much easier to investigate, charge, and prosecute.

  • Require a court to prohibit a person from owning, possessing, training, or residing with any animal for a specified period of time if they are convicted of felony animal abuse. [NOTE: the amended version of the bill passed by the Senate also extends this requirement to misdemeanor animal abuse.]

  • Unfortunately, also specifically "does not prohibit training or hunting with dogs in the manner authorized by the Department of Natural Resources." [NOTE: the amended bill has stronger language protecting the hounders at the request of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association.] What does it say about a certain "sport" that the bill authors feel the need to specifically EXCLUDE participants from a felony animal abuse bill? But we feel that that's a battle for another day.

     We all know of cases -- either first-hand or through the media -- where the worst animal cruelty has occurred and the abuser arrested, only to get off with just a slap on the wrist. Or, worse, that the abuser wasn't even arrested because either the DA didn't think it worth the effort for a "just a misdemeanor" or the situation required a "judgement call" as to whether it actually fit the definitions of abuse. And what of the abused animal, as well as other animals in that person's home? Will they be subjected to future abuse? It's time that Wisconsin caught up with neighboring states and passed a strong, enforceable law to address and correct this deficiency. We feel that SB 366/AB 368 will be this law.

     Even though you'd think this bill would be a "slam-dunk" to get passed, there is some very stiff opposition to it, even (understandably) from some animal welfare advocates, particularly after the amendment further solidified the exemptions for hounders. (Note that those protections already exist regardless under Chapter 29 and ACT 169, the laws allowing bear and wolf hunting with hounds).

     The decision to support or oppose the amended version of this bill is a difficult one. Parts of the amendment, such as the expanded definition of "cruelty," actually strengthen the bill. Each organization and individual must weigh all of the factors and decide which direction they want to take. We respect the decision of those who feel that they cannot, in good conscience, support the amended version of SB 366 or the addition of the amendment to AB 368.

     While we do agree in principle that this law's protections should apply equally to every animal under its scope, given the circumstances -- and after a lot of thought, discussion, and soul-searching -- we have decided we will cautiously continue to support passage of what we consider to be an otherwise excellent protection for the majority of animals in Wisconsin.

     When making your own decision, please keep in mind: This is our THIRD try — if AB 368/SB 366 fails, we likely won't get another chance in the foreseeable future!

     AB 368 is still "in committee," so now is the time to make your voice heard. You can still email all members of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary (their contact information is in the What You Can Do section, below) and either just request that they pass AB 368 out of committee and on to the full Assembly, or request that they pass AB 368 out of committee WITHOUT amendment.

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Bill Summary (by the Legislative Reference Bureau; notes in brackets from the Wisconsin Legislative Council Amendment Memo):

Sexual abuse of animals is no joke.     "Under current law, a person who commits an act of animal abuse is subject to a Class C forfeiture, unless the animal abuse results in the mutilation, disfigurement, or death of the animal, in which case the person is guilty of a Class I felony. Under current law, animal abuse means treating an animal in a cruel manner, but the prohibition on animal abuse does not prohibit normal and accepted veterinary practices." [For this purpose, “cruel” is defined to mean “causing unnecessary and excessive pain or suffering or unjustifiable injury or death.” ]

     "Under this bill, the prohibition on animal abuse also does not prohibit training or hunting with dogs in the manner authorized by the Department of Natural Resources. Under this bill, a person who commits an act of animal abuse is guilty of a Class H felony if the animal abuse results in grievous bodily harm to or the death of the animal and is guilty of a Class I felony if the person knows or reasonably should know that the animal abuse may result in grievous bodily harm to or the death of an animal, regardless of whether grievous bodily harm or death occurs." [The bill defines “grievous bodily harm” as “serious bodily injury, including fractured or dislocated bones, deep cuts, burns, torn members o f the body, tissue damage as a result of exposure to cold temperatures, serious damage to internal organs, starvation, or other severe bodily injuries.”]

     "Under current law, a court may order that a person who commits an act of animal abuse may not own, possess, or train any animal or type or species of animal for a period specified by the court, but not to exceed five years. Under the bill, the court may enter such an order, including an order that the person may not reside with any animal or type or species of animal, if the person is convicted of a misdemeanor violation, and must enter such an order, including an order that the person may not reside with any animal or type or species of animal, for a period of up to fifteen years if the person is convicted of a felony violation.

     "Because this bill creates a new crime or revises a penalty for an existing crime, the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties may be requested to prepare a report."

SUMMARY OF SENATE SUBSTITUTE AMENDMENT 1 (from the Wisconsin Legislative Council Amendment Memo) :

     Senate Substitute Amendment 1 makes the same changes to current law as Senate Bill 366, with the following differences:

  • The substitute amendment modifies the definition of “cruel,” for the purposes of crimes against animals, to also include “engaging in actions that are likely to cause unnecessary and excessive pain or suffering or unjustifiable injury or death.”

  • The substitute amendment provides that the crime of animal mistreatment “does not apply to an injury or the care and treatment of that injury, sustained by a dog while training or hunting with dogs in the manner authorized under chapter 29 if the injury is cared for and treated as soon as is practicable under the circumstances.” (NOTE: This is the "sticking point" for many animal advocates.)

  • The substitute amendment raises the penalty for intentionally mistreating an animal that the person knows is used by a law enforcement agency to perform agency functions or duties if the mistreatment results in injury to the animal from a Class I to a Class H penalty.

  • The substitute amendment requires a court to order that a person convicted of either a misdemeanor or felony violation of ch. 951, Stats., be prohibited from owning, possessing, residing with, or training any animal or type or species of animal for a period specified by the court. The duration of the order shall not exceed five years for a misdemeanor conviction or 15 years for a felony conviction. I n computing the time period, time which the person spent in actual confinement serving a sentence shall be excluded.

 pawprint bullet point   Wisconsin Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences   pawprint bullet point

 

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WHAT YOU CAN DO:

His eyes are on you.     General guidelines for contacting your representatives: Try to keep your message brief, and be sure to give your name, complete mailing address, and phone number. Let your representative know that you are a constituent. Please, ALWAYS be polite and respectful. Name-calling, and rude or abusive letters or emails will hurt, rather than help, our cause.

     As we wait for the Committee on Judiciary to schedule an Executive Session to vote on AB 368, there is still time to let Committee members know that while you support the bill, you may not support the amended version.

  • Please put "Assembly Committee on AB 368" in the subject line.

  • IF YOU CHOOSE TO SUPPORT THE AMENDMENT: please ask them to vote YES to pass AB 368 (relating to: Felony provisions for the mistreatment of animals) out of committee and on to the full Assembly. If you want to give reasons for your position, please scroll down for Talking Points. Personal experience or insights would be even more valuable. Be sure to give your first and last name, street address, city, state and zip.

  • IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO SUPPORT THE AMENDED VERSION OF THE BILL: please ask them to pass the original version of AB 368 (relating to: Felony provisions for the mistreatment of animals) out of committee and on to the full Assembly WITHOUT AMENDMENT. Personal experience or insights would be valuable. Be sure to give your first and last name, street address, city, state and zip.


Assembly Committee on Judiciary
(bill cosposor in green.)

Rep. Ron Tusler (chair)
(608) 266-5831
Rep.Tusler@legis.wisconsin.gov
Rep. Samantha Kerkman (vice chair)
(608) 266-2530
Rep.Kerkman@legis.wisconsin.gov
Rep. Timothy S. Ramthun
(608) 266-9175
Rep.Ramthun@legis.wisconsin.gov
Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt
(608) 266-3156
Rep.Thiesfeldt@legis.wisconsin.gov
Rep. Cody Horlacher
(608) 266-5715
Rep.Horlacher@legis.wisconsin.gov
Rep. Shae A. Sortwell
(608) 266-9870
Rep.Sortwell@legis.wisconsin.gov
Rep. Marisabel Cabrera
(608) 266-1707
Rep.Cabrera@legis.wisconsin.gov
Rep. Gary Hebl
(608) 266-7678
Rep.Hebl@legis.wisconsin.gov
Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez
(608) 267-7669
Rep.Ortiz-Velez@legis.wisconsin.gov
  • Please contact both your WI State Senator and State Representative and ask for their SUPPORT of SB 366/AB 368, relating to: Felony provisions for the mistreatment of animals. You can find your representatives at: https://legis.wisconsin.gov/

    • If they have already signed on as co-sponsors (see Co-Sponsor list above), please THANK them and let them know you also support SB 366/AB 368.

    • If they are not listed as co-sponsors, ask them to "Please support SB 366/AB 368, relating to: Felony provisions for the mistreatment of animals.

    • Again, it is VERY important that you include your full name, street address, city, state and zip. Phone number and email address are also helpful.

  • If you want to give reasons for your position, please see our Talking Points below!

  • Also, please post your request/thanks on your Representative's Facebook page!

 pawprint bullet point   Find your WI State Representatives   pawprint bullet point

 

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Talking Points:

Blue- eyed dog     Here is the text of a co-sponsorship memo sent to All Legislators, from Representative John Spiros:

     "In February 2019, a Marshfield man placed nine newborn puppies into a trash bag and put them in a dumpster. Luckily, someone heard noises coming from the dumpster and contacted the Marshfield Police Department, who was able to save the puppies. Given the cold temperatures that time of year and the fact that the puppies were only one day old, they would surely have died quickly had someone not found them. You can watch this video for more context on the incident.

     "The Marshfield man was arrested and charged with intentional mistreatment of animals and intentional abandonment of animals. Both of these crimes are misdemeanors.

     "Under current Wisconsin law, these types of crimes can only be charged with a felony if the action of the defendant resulted in the mutilation, disfigurement, or death of an animal. And while in this case the perpetrator clearly knew his actions were likely to result in the death of the puppies, he can only be charged with a misdemeanor.

     "This bill would remedy that by saying that a person is guilty of a Class I felony if they commit an act of animal abuse that they know or should reasonably know may result in grievous bodily harm or death of an animal, regardless of whether that harm or death actually occurs. The bill also increases the penalty for an act of animal abuse that actually results in grievous bodily harm to or death of the animal to Class H felony.

     "Additionally, current law states that a court MAY order that a person who commits an act of animal abuse may not own, possess, or train any animal for a specified period of time. This bill would REQUIRE [emphasis ours] a court to prohibit a person from owning, possessing, training, or residing with any animal for a specified period of time if they are convicted of felony animal abuse.

     "As is the case with the Marshfield man who abandoned the puppies, many animal abusers have other animals at home. And despite their crimes, they are able to keep their animals after a conviction. This bill would ensure the most serious animal abusers are not able to continue to have animals in their home. "

  • We all know of cases -- either first-hand or through the media -- where the worst animal cruelty has occurred and the abuser arrested, only to get off with just a slap on the wrist. Or, worse, where the abuser wasn't even arrested because the DA didn't think it worth the effort for a "just a misdemeanor." And what of other animals in that person's home? Will they be subjected to future abuse? It's time that Wisconsin caught up with neighboring states and passed a strong, enforceable law to address and correct this deficiency. We think that SB 366/AB 368 would be that law, and support it.

    • In February 2019, a Marshfield man placed nine newborn puppies into a trash bag and put them in a dumpster. Luckily, someone heard noises coming from the dumpster and contacted the Marshfield Police Department, who was able to save the puppies. Given the cold temperatures that time of year and the fact that the puppies were only one day old, they would surely have died quickly had someone not found them. The abuser was arrested and charged with intentional mistreatment of animals and intentional abandonment of animals. Both of these crimes are misdemeanors. You can watch this video for more context on the incident.

    • Misty, an elderly lab mix, was taken out into the woods, stuffed into a canvas duffle bag, beaten with a hammer and left for dead by her owner, who had decided that she didn't want to deal with an old dog anymore. Misty was rescued, and her owner arrested. However, because Misty did survive -- even though the owner admitted her intention to kill the dog -- the abuser under current law could NOT be charged with a felony. More about Misty here.

    • A woman dropped off a severely malnourished dog, later named Gabriel, at the Dunn County Humane Society in November 2019. She originally maintained that she had found the dog at the side of the road, but later admitted that he was actually her dog. She was charged with felony mistreatment of animals, and intentionally failing to provide food for an animal which is a misdemeanor. (More details here.)

    • On October 26, 2020, a dog was found in Thorp with his front legs bound together with a black zip tie. In addition to severe lacerations to the legs, he appeared weak and skinny and was taken to an animal rescue representative from the local area for further care. The dog and owner were identified, and the owner was charged with mistreatment of animals and obstructing an officer in Clark County. (More details here.)

    • Even worse are the instances when the abuser hasn't even been arrested because DA's don't think it's worth the effort for a "just a misdemeanor."

    • Though a court may forbid the abuser to own any animals for a specific time, in many cases, this doesn't happen, and the abuser can even get back the very animal they were arrested for injuring in the first place!

  • Currently, even the most horrific of animal abuse is considered a felony ONLY if the abuse resulted in the mutilation, disfigurement, or death of an animal -- even if the abuser clearly intended to kill.

    • SB 366/AB 368 would make it a Class I felony to commit an act of animal abuse that an abuser knows or should reasonably know may result in grievous bodily harm or death of an animal, regardless of whether that harm or death actually occurs.

    • SB 366/AB 368 would also increase the penalty for an act of animal abuse that actually results in grievous bodily harm to or death of the animal.

  • Currently, a court MAY order that a person who commits an act of animal abuse may not own, possess, or train any animal for a specified period of time. Many abusers have other animals at home, and are able to keep them even after a conviction. They can even get back the animal they are convicted of abusing!

    • SB 366/AB 368 would REQUIRE a court to prohibit a person from owning, possessing, training, or residing with any animal for a specified period of time if they are convicted of felony animal abuse. The most serious of animal abusers would NOT be allowed to have animals in their homes.

  • Currently, “cruel” is defined to mean “causing unnecessary and excessive pain or suffering or unjustifiable injury or death.”

    • SB 366/AB 368 provides a detailed description of the term grievous bodily harm, defining it as serious bodily injury, including fractured or dislocated bones, deep cuts, burns, torn members of the body, tissue damage as a result of exposure to cold temperatures, serious damage to internal organs, starvation, or other severe bodily injuries." This definition makes animal abuse complaints much easier to investigate, charge, and prosecute.

  • Record of Assembly Committee on Judicary Hearing on AB 368 Proceedings (PDF), Assembly Committee on Judiciary Hearing Materials for AB 368 (PDF)

 

Abused dog at animal hospital


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