OWOSSO — On Monday President Donald Trump signed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, which makes animal cruelty a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison — giving area officials hope they will see fewer injuries to animals.
“This is such an important piece of legislation because these animals don’t have a voice. As a shelter, we have to be their voice. Now people need to step up and report cases. I completely support this legislation,” Sue Osika, executive director of the Shiawassee Humane Society, said.
Tim Bishop has been the kennel manager for the Shiawassee Humane Society for several years. He said the most common form of animal cruelty throughout Shiawassee County is neglect.
Bishop said there have been serious cases of abuse in Shiawassee County, including the 2016 case of Tavian Martin French, who slit a cat’s throat. Such a case would have fallen under the new law Trump just signed.
The federal bill had bipartisan support; it was introduced in the house by Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Florida, and Vern Buchanan, R-Florida.
“From battlefields to hospitals, from the ranches of the frontier, to the backyard of America, from animals of service to animals of war, our nation’s animals have played a vital role in the development, settlement, security, and happiness of our country,” Trump said at the signing.
“We have a responsibility to honor the dignity of God’s creation,” Trump added. “With today’s action we take the critical step of being more responsible and humane stewards of our planet and all we want to cherish and take care of and all of those who live on it.”
The law was approved by the House in late October, and later unanimously by the Senate Nov. 5. It is an expansion of the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which made the creation and distribution of “animal crushing” videos illegal.
In Michigan, animal cruelty is already a felony — punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.
Near the end of his second term, then-Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that allows judges to sentence individuals who harm or kill animals with the aim of causing emotional harm punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
According to the Humane Society, the most-often reported types of animals abused are dogs, cats, horses, and livestock. Because of weaker protections for livestock, usually only the most egregious cases get reported.
Many more organized cases of animal cruelty occur, such as dogfighting and cockfighting.