Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Testimony at a Public Hearing

I just finished writing and sending in this testimony that will be read at a public hearing on April 1, 2015 concerning two bills that, if passed, would ensure a better justice system for animals in the state of Connecticut.

HB 6187 would establish a system to provide an abused animal with a designated individual who will communicate the animal's interests in cruelty cases. The court advocate would volunteer their time, launch an independent investigation of the cruelty case, and present findings to the court. An advocate can speak to the gravity and seriousness of the crime, and emphasize the connection between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans.

SB 1128 would eliminate Accelerated Rehab as a penalty option in animal cruelty cases.

HB 6187, also known as "Desmond's Law", is named for a boxer/pit bull mix who was beaten, tortured, and strangled to death. The killer's only punishment was Accelerated Rehab, a two-year program for crimes deemed not serious in nature. WHAT?! How can such a violent crime be considered "not serious in nature"? An unpaid parking ticket is not serious in nature. A person who commits such violence should be sentenced to prison and receive mandatory psychological treatment.

Every state needs to have laws in place that condemn animal abuse and neglect and they need to be strictly enforced. In order for this to happen, we have to get involved. In Connecticut we are lucky to have a great organization called Connecticut Votes for Animals. Members receive emails from CVA when there are important votes coming up that pertain to animal welfare issues and we are given friendly reminders to contact our state representatives to ask them to vote pro-animal. I am posting the testimony I submitted in hopes that it will encourage you to look for a similar organization in your state to join or to periodically contact your state representatives to encourage them support animal-friendly legislation.

Testimony Concerning HB 6187 (“Desmond’s Law”) and SB 1128

Judiciary Committee
April 1, 2015
Ellen Wilson

I would like to thank the Judiciary committee for the opportunity to express my support of HB 6187 (“Desmond’s Law”) and SB 1128.

I care very much about animals and believe that as a civilized society we must treat animals humanely. As a former Spanish teacher at Canterbury School in New Milford, I led a service trip to Puerto Rico for students in the summers of 2013 and 2014 to work as volunteers at Save a Sato, a street dog rescue organization and shelter on the island that rescued my dog from the streets fourteen years ago when she was just a puppy. Although Canterbury offers other service trips, the students I took chose this trip because they love dogs and wanted to help those that have been abused, neglected, or thrown out into the streets. Besides wanting to volunteer at the shelter myself, I offered the trip to give students the opportunity to experience the sense of satisfaction that comes from doing service work and to educate the younger generation about our responsibility to speak for those who can’t protect themselves.

My support of these bills goes beyond my love of animals, however. People who are violent towards others or neglect those for whom they are responsible often face criminal charges. We teach our children that hurting others is wrong. But what message are we sending to children when we allow animals to be treated by humans in ways that cause suffering? We are showing them that either we are saying one thing but doing another or that there are those that matter and those that don’t.

To some people, either consciously or subconsciously, there are those who matter more and those who matter less. If we aren’t members of one of the latter groups we may not pick up on the subtleties around us although members of those groups certainly will. No person is inherently better or worse than any other person due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity. All people feel pain and fear and so do animals. We must send the message that it is wrong to hurt others, no matter who the others are or how we feel about them.

Desmond, the dog for which SB 1128 is named, was beaten, tortured, and strangled to death. I am appalled and angered that Desmond’s killer got off with Accelerated Rehab because the crime was deemed not serious in nature. This bears repeating: committing battery, torture, and murder was labeled “not serious in nature”. The fact that these acts of violence were committed against an animal rather than a person does not change the scary reality that the perpetrator lacks a conscience and this makes him or her a danger to society.

Finally, people who hurt other people often start by hurting animals. By adopting and enforcing punishments that more accurately reflect the seriousness of their actions combined with mandatory psychological treatment rather than waiting to punish violent behavior until it is directed at humans, it would make a statement that as a society we will not tolerate cruelty of any sort and as a result, fewer offenders would go on to abuse people.

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to testify and I urge you to strongly support these important bills.

Thank you,

Ellen Wilson
New Milford

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