Legislature passes bills to strengthen punishment for animal abusers

Lawmakers are pushing for stronger laws after horrifying crimes against animals were met with minimal punishment.

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For years animal advocacy groups and prosecutors in the state have been pushing for harsher punishment for animal abusers, and for the first time in more than a decade the laws could be changing.

Images you can't unsee and stories you can't forget. Often times the animal abusers aren't even caught and when they are - they get a slap on the wrist.

Thirty days, 90 days -- it's usually minimal, and that's in the worst of cases said Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton.

A perfect example is a case out of Oakland County where 23-year-old Timothy Crow hanged and beat his mother's dog to death, recording the whole gruesome scene.

"His sentencing guidelines were zero to three months. In the statement to the police, he indicated he fantasized doing this to people," Walton said. 

Two bills that passed in the house and senate will land on Governor Snyder's desk during the lame duck session. 

The first makes animal cruelty a 10-year felony instead of 4 years, while the other would give judge's more leeway with sentencing because right now animals are considered property.

"Take the animal cruelty penalties out of treating them as simply a property crime. Define the animal, for purposes of animal cruelty, as the victim," Walton said.

Walton said if you're not an animal person, animal abuse is not something to take lightly.

"If you've got someone in your neighborhood or you know that enjoys torturing or hurting animals, I'd be very concerned about that," he said.

Walton said it's usually tied to other crimes, especially domestic violence.

"They get some type of pleasure out of watching something else suffer and soon that doesn't reach their gratification anymore, so they turn to people," he said.

The bills are on the way to the governor's desk. A spokesperson said he will take several days to review the language then make his decision.