By Lauren Lewis –
January 22, 2019
Less than one week after Wyoming was ranked the 47th worst state for animal protection laws in 2018 in the United States, a bill to increase the penalties for cruelty was unfathomably defeated in a Wyoming Senate vote last Tuesday.
A seemingly subtle bill that WAN believes should have been a no-brainer, as it only called for the maximum fines for those convicted of animal cruelty to be raised, leaving prison sentences to remain the same.
How on earth did such a minor detail for such an important piece of legislation not pass?
WAN talked with the sponsor of the Senate File 33, Senator Mike Gierau, to make sense of the senseless move by Wyoming, which should be working to enhance its animal protection laws, and in turn, its ranking on the latest report released by Animal Legal Defense Fund.
According to Gierau, certain parties, such as ranchers and outfitters, are concerned that any strengthening of animal welfare statues will spin out of control with the government then trying to ruin their businesses.
That is not the case, Gierau told WAN, explaining that he is “sympathetic to the ranchers and outfitters to a certain extent” and wants to work with them, not against them, to find viable solutions.
Gierau also made it abundantly clear that the constituents in his area believe there needs to be more stringent rules when it comes to animal welfare; and that he is going to continue fighting for them, and for the animals.
As explained by Gierau, Wyoming is a “citizen legislature”; a chamber that is made up primarily of people who have a full-time occupation besides being a legislator. In the case of the Wyoming senate, some of the members are ranchers and outfitters.
Compounding the problem, the Wyoming legislature meets a mere 60 days over a two-year span. This makes it more challenging to work bills through the system, oftentimes, as in this case, limiting the preparation time allowed to properly present the bill with supporting information, testimonies, and more.
Most recently, Gierau had one day’s notice after the bill made it out of committee to be addressed on the floor.
“Doing my best to introduce meaningful fines for animal cruelty,” Gierau noted in a post on his Facebook page last month.
While not officially in session, Gierau explained to WAN that committees can continue to have meetings during the off time.
“I am going to keep working on it,” Gierau told WAN, sharing that he plans to recommend the topic for discussion in committee during an interim session set to take place sometime this year.
Currently, as per KGAB, a misdemeanor conviction for animal cruelty under Wyoming Law carries a penalty of $750 and up to one year in prison, while aggravated animal cruelty, which is a felony in the state, could result in a fine of $5,000 or two years in prison.
While the amount of jail time would not be changed, the fines would have increased to a maximum of $2,500 for a misdemeanor, and $10,000 for a felony.
Ultimately, when the bill was reintroduced this month, it had been amended to raise the misdemeanor fine to $1,500, and the felony fine to $7,500.
As previously noted, the bill was originally introduced in February of last year, but did not acquire the votes needed for it to be assigned to a committee for discussion, prompting Gierau to lower the suggested fees.
Among those that opposed the bill was Senator Brian Boner, who unfathomably stated that “in his experience most animal cruelty cases stem from people not having the money to properly care for their animals, not malicious intent.”
Not Malicious Intent?
Has Senator Boner somehow missed all the news, research, and reports that make the correlation between people who commit animal cruelty who then move on to participate in more serious crimes such as, domestic violence against humans.
One year has not even passed since 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland outside Miami, by a 19-year-old mass shooter with a history of abusing animals, including frogs and chickens.
WAN will continue to update the status of this important bill and supports its passage.
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