In the view of Michigan law, as in many other states, animals, including our household companions, have the same legal status as a chest of drawers, or a piece of jewelry in your home. They’re considered property.
Some states are giving more protection to pets. In California a law recently passed making it illegal for pet stores to sell cats, dogs or rabbits from any source except rescue shelters and organizations. Link to story.
A recent Michigan proposal would extend existing animal cruelty penalties to breeders and pet shops, and increase the criminal penalties for multiple cruelty convictions, and in circumstances in which more than 10 animals are involved. House Bill 4332 would increase penalties for animal cruelty crimes, providing for felony penalties of:
Up to four years in prison, a fine of $5,000 and up to 500 hours of community service.
If 25 or more animals are involved:
Up to seven years in prison, $10,000 fine and up to 500 hours of community service.
Although not directly aimed at “puppy mills,” the bill includes breeders and pet shops within the gamut of those who must provide adequate care (the provision of sufficient food, water, shelter, sanitary conditions, exercise, and veterinary medical attention in order to maintain an animal in a state of good health) to the animals in their charge.
The legislation would also make it a separate crime, punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of $5,000, for killing or torturing an animal “. . . with the intent to impose control over or cause mental suffering to a person.” The House legislation creates First, Second and Third Degree crimes of Killing or Torturing an Animal. Such crimes often occur in connection with domestic violence, stalking, and situations giving rise to a need for personal protection order. A second degree conviction could subject a violator to:
Up to seven years in prison, $5,000 fine and up to 500 hours of community service.
Notably, the legislation would allow the Court to order psychiatric evaluation of someone given probation after a conviction, and to order treatment if it is needed. It also mandates that the Court order the defendant to pay for veterinary treatment, etc. for any affected animal, in full, unless the judge states her reason for not ordering such.
If this measure passes the Michigan Senate, it may move Michigan a bit further down the road toward protecting those who cannot speak for themselves. Let’s hope that in Michigan, we are human, and humane, enough to do so.