NASHVILLE – Legislation sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) that would strengthen penalties against those who are convicted of animal cruelty was unanimously approved by the full Senate on final consideration this week.
The bill makes violation of a judge’s order connected with animal cruelty conviction a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a one-year jail sentence and a $2,500 fine. It also provides that second and subsequent cruelty to animal convictions would be considered a Class E felony with a one- to six-year prison sentence and up to $3,000 in fines.
“The current law does not have any teeth,” said Senator Ketron. “There is nothing to punish those who commit this crime from abusing again.”
Currently, a judge in Tennessee can issue a special order that bans persons convicted of animal cruelty from owning an animal again. However, the law does not prescribe penalties to allow prosecutors or judges to punish offenders.
The link between animal cruelty and other forms of violence is a national concern. For example, the practice of dog fighting is commonly linked to illegal drug and weapons violations, gambling, aggravated assault and gang violence.
The bill, Senate Bill 3540, now goes to the governor for his signature before becoming law.