News Index > Sortable News 10/06 - now > June 2007
Intentional animal cruelty now a felony

By LILA FUJIMOTO, Staff Writer
PUUNENE � Maui Humane Society officials said they hope a new state law will prevent violence to both animals and humans by establishing that some acts of animal cruelty are a felony offense.

"All four islands' Humane Societies have been pushing for this for eight years," said Jocelyn Bouchard, executive director of the Maui Humane Society. "This is a very momentous and historic day."

Bouchard, Maui Humane Society Board Chairman Anthony Levoy and executive directors and board chairmen of Humane Societies on other islands were on hand Friday at the Hawaiian Humane Society on Oahu, as Gov. Linda Lingle signed the bill that creates a felony offense for cruelty to animals.

Under the measure, the felony charge of first-degree cruelty to animals would apply when someone "intentionally or knowingly tortures, mutilates or poisons or causes the torture, mutilation or poisoning of any pet animal, resulting in serious bodily injury or death to the pet animal."

The law defines pet animals as dogs, cats, domesticated rabbits, guinea pigs, domesticated pigs or caged birds that aren't bred for consumption.

Instead of the current law classifying such acts of animal cruelty as a misdemeanor, the new law makes the crime a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Second-degree animal cruelty, classified as a misdemeanor, would apply for "every living creature except a human being" and include torturing, tormenting, beating, starving, overloading or intentionally driving over an animal.

On Maui, Bouchard said, the new law would have provided for stiffer penalties in a case involving a Hana man who was convicted last month of animal cruelty for killing his neighbor's dog.

Sylvain Pilon, 46, faces a maximum one-year jail term and $2,000 fine when he is sentenced.

During his trial in Wailuku District Court, Pilon testified that barking by his neighbor's dogs led him to grab a machete and go into his neighbor's yard to kill one of the dogs in January. A trail of blood led to Pilon's residence, where the dog was buried.

Bouchard said it was important to note that the felony charge would apply only to intentional acts of cruelty.

"This will help with the cases that are intentional acts of cruelty, torture, mutilation, extreme starvation," she said.

"We're hoping that the new law will curb animal abuse and animal cruelty," said David Cain, a Wailuku attorney and Maui Humane Society board member.

Cain was part of a Humane Society legislative committee that compared Hawaii's laws with animal cruelty laws in other states. He said other states are also moving toward tougher penalties for animal cruelty.

"There is a big trend in the United States toward making animal cruelty a felony," Cain said.

Bouchard said studies have shown a correlation between violence to animals and violence to humans, particularly domestic violence.

"This is not just for the animals, this is for the people," she said.

With the new felony law, she said the judicial system may be better able to track animal cruelty offenders before any violence extends to humans.

Along with the governor, who signed the bill, she said the Humane Society wanted to thank Sen. Clayton Hee for his part in wining approval of the bill in the Legislature.

The felony definition excludes actions involving cockfighting and doesn't include horses.

"There's still some work to be done," Bouchard said. "Overall, it's a great bill."

Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews. com
http://www.mauinews .com/story. aspx?id=31049

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