SB 99: Classifying Animal Abuse as Domestic Violence
This bill passed unanimously in the Senate but failed in the House with a vote of 31-39.
Animal cruelty is illegal under state law, and depending on severity, it can result in a class A, B, or C misdemeanor. Sometimes individuals are even charged with a felony. If the circumstances called for it, a prosecutor could go even further to charge an individual with domestic violence as well. This is because animals could be classified as tangible property, and harm to property in the presence of a spouse, for example, is considered domestic violence under current law.
In most cases, a prosecutor probably would not charge an individual with domestic violence for animal abuse unless the circumstances called for it. But Senator Allen Christensen‘s sponsored legislation, Senate Bill 99, explicitly—and redundantly—adds animal abuse to the long list of offenses that can be considered domestic violence.
While actual domestic violence should be punished, the way the current law is written allows for almost any damage of jointly owned property to be classified as domestic violence—even if the damage was inadvertent and not meant to harass the cohabitant. We have previously supported legislation to narrow this definition to minimize abuse and misapplications for domestic violence law; expanding the list takes it in an opposite direction that concerns us.