SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Scott Wilk, R-Antelope Valley, announced the introduction of the Animal Welfare and Violence Intervention Act of 2018 to address the link between animal abuse and violence towards humans and to stop the escalation of dangerous behavior among offenders who hurt animals.
“Animal abuse crimes should be treated seriously because they are serious,” said Wilk, himself the parent of a rescue dog. “Our animal friends need and deserve our protection, but this bill isn’t just about them. It’s also about our mothers and daughters, our friends and neighbors, our children and grandchildren; it’s about all of us.”
Wilk went on to cite statistics that show in some cases 60 percent of domestic violence offenders also abused animals at some point and that 70 percent of the most violent prisoners in a study of federal prisons had serious animal abuse in their histories.
“There’s no denying the existence of a problem here and it has become ever more apparent that our current mechanisms for identifying and addressing these offenders is neither restorative, nor rehabilitative in any meaningful way,” said Wilk.
The bill will require offenders convicted under animal abuse crimes to undergo mandatory mental health assessments and, if deemed beneficial by the assessing mental health professional, to seek ongoing counseling. The bill also requires offenders to enroll in an animal offender education course that will teach them proper techniques for interacting with animals in a positive way.
“Through early intervention with mental health and education we can begin to weaken the link between animal abuse and future violence against humans. The link is well established, but it isn’t unbreakable.”
The bill is supported by legislative, animal rights and law enforcement leaders including the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and former Los Angeles County Prosecutor in charge of animal crimes, Deborah Knaan.
"Ferreting out mental health issues and educating offenders will go a long way toward preventing more animals, and humans, from being victimized in the future," said Knaan who now runs Benchmark Animal Rehabilitative Curriculum an animal abuse education nonprofit that, along with Wilk and ALDF, is spearheading efforts to enact the legislation.