RI One of Best States for Anti-Animal Cruelty Laws

Monday, December 20, 2010


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Rhode Island has stronger laws against animal cruelty than most other states, according to a new report by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

The report, which compared all states, ranked Rhode Island as 14th - among the top tier of states.

But two local supporters of animal rights don’t think the Ocean State has much to brag about.

“I’m not proud of it,” said E.J. Finocchio, president of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “If we’re 14th and I know what’s going on in our state, the criteria must be very weak.”

Finocchio said in his eight years as president jail time for extreme cases of animal cruelty was rare—in fact, he said he personally could not recall any examples. As for the fines, offenders face, he said judges routinely reduce them to an amount that he said does little to deter such behavior in the future.

Three New England states had a higher ranking: Maine was second, Vermont tenth, and Massachusetts 13th.

Study looks at laws more than enforcement

The study focused mainly on 14 categories of legal provisions—not how those are enforced, something that Finocchio said is one of its weaknesses. “A law is only as good as you enforce it,” he said.

State Rep. Rod Driver, D-Charlestown, Exeter, Richmond, also was surprised that Rhode Island ranked high in the study. “It’s a surprise to me,” Driver said. “I don’t know on what grounds we came out at number 14.”

Last year, he sponsored legislation that would have created a registry of people who committed cruelty to animals—similar to the sex offender registry. But he said the bill never made it out of committee.

Room for improvement for all states

The 14 categories in which states were scored included: whether courts can remove abused animals from a home, the duties of police officers, whether the law increases penalties when abuse is committed in the presence of a minor, and whether the law has increased penalties for repeat offenders.

“While many (states) continue to make positive steps forward, others unfortunately are not,” said Stephan Otto, ALDF’s director of legislative affairs and author of the report. “Yet irrespective of where each state and territory currently ranks in the report, everyone has ample room for improvement.”

He added: “It is our hope that these ongoing reviews continue to shed light on this important issue and garner support for both the strengthening and enforcement of animal protection laws throughout the country.”


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