WYOMING – A new animal abuse bill is advancing this winter with work between an interim legislative committee and Wyoming’s Legislative Services Office.
At its November meeting, LSO staff and the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Committee again discussed reorganizing the existing statute, W.S. 6-3-203, and repealing it with new wording, definitions and penalties.
The fifth working draft version, 21LSO-0111, passed unanimously in November and was posted with meeting minutes in late December. It outlines first and second offenses of animal cruelty, with a separate section about livestock wantonly killed on its owner’s property.
Staff comments are posted throughout the draft document about which parts are “pulled from existing W.S. 6-3-203” and questions for the committee.
“This draft reorganizes the single statute which currently addresses all of the animal abuse provisions in the criminal code (W.S. 6-3-203),” the draft states. “The reorganization attempts to eliminate redundancy and arranges the offenses in a sequential order of increasing seriousness from animal abuse, aggravated animal abuse to felony animal abuse. Some substantive modifications are made in order to make the elements of the various offenses more consistent.
In order not to make major substantive changes the offenses in current law are retained, but some are renamed to simplify the statutes. There are additional modifications, which involve policy choices the Committee might wish to consider. Those additional modifications are discussed in staff comments.
The draft legislation organizes misdemeanors and felonies of cruelty to animals, aggravated animal cruelty, destroying animals in gas chambers, attending dog or fowl fights or keeping pets in unsanitary conditions.
A first offense carries a misdemeanor punishment of up to six months in jail, $750 fine or both. A second offense could bring six months in jail, $5,000 fine or both.
A felony cruelty to animals charge would include the above actions that result in an animal’s death or euthanasia or “with intent to cause death or undue suffering, beats with cruelty, tortures, torments or mutilates an animal.” LSO staff notes again suggest the interim committee might want to sort through “conflicting” elements of the current statute.
A felony could bring up to two years in prison, $5,000 fine or both.
A court could consider requiring the defendant to pay all reasonable costs with impounding, prohibit future animal ownership or turning the animal over to a person who did not participate.
Allowed are humane destruction of an animal or livestock, accepted agricultural practices, rodeos, use of livestock guard dogs, use of dogs or raptors for hunting and hunting or killing of any predatory animals or wildlife that are not regulated by another law.
“Privately owned” household pets include cats, dogs, rabbits, hamster, mouse, gerbil, ferret, bird, fish, reptile, amphibian, invertebrate or “any species of domesticated animal sold, transferred or retained for the purpose of being kept as a pet in or near a house. Livestock are not household pets.”
“Livestock” are horses, mules, asses, rabbits, llamas, cattle, swine, sheep, goats, poultry, or other animal generally used for food or in the production of food or fiber, working animals and guard animals actively engaged in the protection of livestock.”
Bison are also considered “livestock” unless designated otherwise by the Wyoming Livestock Board.
“Pattern of criminal street gang activity” means conspiring to or committing two or more of the offenses in separate occasions within a three-year period.
Willfull cruelty can include overriding an animal or driving it when overloaded, intentionally injuring or beating an animal. Staff notes say the current law uses the word “unnecessarily” which the LSO deletes as being “nonsensical in that it is difficult to imagine why it would be necessary to injure an animal. … It is a policy question for the Committee what the culpable mental state and elements of the crime should be.”
“Manifest extreme indifference” can mean not providing an animal’s health, food, water or shelter, abandoning it not to a shelter or keeping it in a way that results in chronic or repeated serious physical harm.”
Destroying animals using a high-altitude decompression chamber or carbon monoxide chamber is prohibited.
Training, keeping or allowing a dog or fowl to fight with another; promoting fighting or hosting a fight are examples of aggravated animal cruelty.
Another is shooting, poisoning or otherwise intentionally causing serious injury or destruction of someone else’s livestock or domestic animal on its own property.
Committee co-chair Sen. Brian Boner sponsors the draft Senate bill. Rep. Hans Hunt is also co-chair. Committee members are Sen. Anthony Bouchard, Sen. R.J. Kost, Sen. Glenn Moniz. Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, Rep. Stan Blake, Rep. Aaron Clausen, Rep. Bill Haley, Rep. Bill Henderson, Rep. Evan Simpson, Rep. Richard Tass and Rep. John Winter.
To read the working version and LSO comments, go to wyoleg.gov/InterimCommittee/2020/05-2020111621LSO-0111v0.5.pdf.