An Illinois lawmaker wants people who injure or kill domesticated animals to face a harsher punishment.
State Senator Steve McClure, a Springfield Republican, is pushing legislation aimed at saving the lives of pets in dangerous situations. It would make aggravated animal cruelty, when a person seriously injures or kills a pet, a more serious crime.
McClure believes the current penalty allows anyone who committs the crime to get away with a “slap on the wrist.”
“You know, there’s a big difference between someone who goes up and injures a dog seriously versus someone who, you know, takes a brick and beats it to the point where it dies,” he said.
McClure was a Sangamon County prosecutor before he became a state representative. While in that job, he handled a case involving a woman and her older dog, which revealed a sad truth about Illinois' current animal abuse laws.
“He [the dog] was shot by a neighbor, and when I looked up what to charge the neighbor with who killed what she considered to be her family member, I was very unhappy with what I saw. That always sort of stayed with me."
The Springfield Republican said it’s exhausting to hear about animal abuse cases in the news.
“A boyfriend may be mad at a girlfriend and she’ll have a dog or a cat that she loves and the boyfriend will then do sometimes horrendous things that ended up killing the pet," McClure explained. "I'm just tired of seeing that stuff."
The measure would raise the potential punishment from a Class 4 felony to a Class 2 – meaning someone could face up to seven years in state prison and fines of up to $25,000. Repeat offenders would face a Class 1 felony, which carries a punishment of up to 15 years or a $25,000 fine.
McClure said the idea is to deter would-be abusers from committing the crime.
“If people don’t appreciate the fact that animals are so valuable in the lives of so many, they should appreciate the fact that this is a telltale sign that a person is capable of doing horrendous things to humans,” McClure said.
Aggravated animal cruelty currently carries a sentence of one to three years in Illinois.