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Protecting the most vulnerable: A proposed law to create animal advocates

Animal cruelty and abuse is humanity's mental virus. Because the victims of these crimes cannot speak for themselves, it is essential to have a court-appointed advocate to represent them.

MARGIT LIVINGSTON: ‘As an animal law scholar and director of a university animal law center, I closely follow trends in how legislation and court decisions handle cases of animal abuse and neglect… One of 11 dogs found living in squalid conditions in Chicago, Ill. was a dog named Braveheart. He was a pit-bull that had a swollen muzzle, bite wounds all over her body, and a mutilated right ear. The other dogs had visible scaring on their faces and forepaws… Although Braveheart’s owner reportedly had a previous animal cruelty conviction, he reportedly negotiated a plea deal that reduced the charges… and sentenced him to only 18 months of probation…

The fate of Braveheart led to the creation of Braveheart’s Law (modeled on Desmond’s Law, which went into effect in Connecticut on Oct. 1, 2016). To address the lack of representation of abused animals, Illinois Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R) late last year introduced House Bill 3995, which “provides that in a prosecution of a case involving the injury, health, safety, of a cat or dog, the court may appoint a special advocate to assist the court and represent the interests of justice regarding the health or safety of the cat or dog”…

Braveheart’s case focuses attention once again on the difficulty of bringing such cases to a successful conclusion, both for society and for the animals themselves… Braveheart and her fellow rescued dogs languished for months as her abuser’s case wound its way through the courts. This delay, of course, increased her suffering and delayed her placement in a loving, permanent home.

The new bill recently referred to the Rules Committee, requires the Illinois Department of Agriculture to compile a list of pro bono attorneys and law students who may serve as special advocates for these cases. The goal of this proposed legislation is to provide a voice for the voiceless, namely cats and dogs that have been abused or neglected by their ‘owners’…

Animal cruelty is a serious problem throughout society… Although the state’s attorneys are charged with prosecuting animal cruelty cases, their resources are limited, and the desire to make a plea deal to end the case is overwhelming. Because the victims of these crimes cannot speak for themselves, it is essential to have a court-appointed advocate to represent the injured or killed animals’. SOURCE…

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