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Desmond's Law: Giving Animals A Voice In Cruelty Cases

Posted on April 29 2016

Why do we continue to let animal abusers walk free?

Update: The Desmond's Law PASSED the Senate yesterday, May 2nd, 2016. Now we just have to wait for the governor to sign it. Congratulations to everyone that worked so hard on this for the past few years. THANK YOU everybody that showed their support.

Hearing about people abusing animals turns my stomach, but what upsets me even more is that, in Connecticut, most people charged with animal cruelty get a mere slap on the wrist and are free to go on their merry way. Only about 18% of such cases result in a conviction. We can do so much better than this and it appears that CT Representative Diana Urban agrees!

During a recent legislative session, Representative Diana Urban reintroduced a bill called “Desmond’s Law.” The bill is named after Desmond, a dog that was beaten, starved, strangled and killed by a man named Alex Wullaert. Alex was arrested for Desmond’s murder (animal cruelty) and even admitted to the violence, but escaped any jail time by getting accelerated rehabilitation (i.e. a slap on the wrist).

“Once he served that accelerated rehabilitation it’s expunged from his record” Urban testified. “So we have no idea he has done this.”

Not only is this troublesome because Alex is free to repeat the crime on other defenseless animals, but also because it removes from Alex’s record evidence of his very dangerous inclinations.

Desmond It is worthwhile to note that, Alex’s encounter with Desmond was not his first violent episode. Alex attempted to murder his former girlfriend by strangling her – the very method he used to end poor Desmond.

Urban believes that an animal advocate in court is a much needed resource. Partnering with UCONN Law and other Connecticut law schools would provide the court with that resource at no cost and provide the law students with great courtroom experience! Law students supervised by licensed attorneys could serve as animal advocates, acting as the animal’s voice. Their duties would involve assisting in the collection of information related to what transpired with a given animal victim to help represent the animal’s interest and the broader interest of justice.

Urban also reminded the committee that the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) now recognizes and tracks animal cruelty alongside felony crimes like arson, burglary, and assault in its criminal database.

Evidence demonstrates a strong link between violence to animals and violence to people. Research in psychology and criminology shows that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals don’t stop there; many of them move on to humans.

“Murderers … very often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids,” says Robert K. Ressler, developer of profiles of serial killers for the FBI.

A survey of psychiatric patients who had repeatedly tortured dogs and cats found that all of them had high levels of aggression toward people as well.
History shows that most infamous serial killers first directed their violence towards animals, then turned to killing humans. Here are some of the examples:

- Albert DeSalvo, who killed 13 women, trapped dogs and cats and shot arrows at them through boxes in his youth. 
- Jeffrey Dahmer, another serial killer, impaled frogs, cats, and dogs’ heads on sticks. 
- Dennis Rader, who terrorized people in Kansas, in his childhood, hanged a dog and a cat. 
- During the trial of convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, a psychology professor testified that the teenager, who killed 10 people with a rifle, had “pelted—and probably killed—numerous cats with marbles from a slingshot when he was about 14.”

The deadly school shootings in recent years, in most cases, also began with cruelty to animals. High-school killers such as Kip Kinkel in Springfield, Oregon, and Luke Woodham, in Pearl, Mississippi, tortured animals before starting their shooting classmates. Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who shot and killed 12 people, talked openly to their classmates about torturing animals.

Sixty percent of families that had received treatment as a result of incidents of child abuse also had animals in the home who had been abused. Several separate studies show that more than half of the battered women reported that their abuser threatened or injured their animal companions.

As a society, we should care about those that cannot speak for themselves. Whether you are an animal lover or not, you should care about the abuse that’s going on around you. You never know how a person that goes without conviction and punishment can affect your life and the lives of those you care about.

You know the old saying “he got caught and got away with murder” -- no punishment usually means they are free to easily do it again. The question is who is going to be their next victim? Your dog or your loved one.

Desmond’s Law has passed the House yesterday, April 27th! We now need the bill to pass the Senate. Please contact your State Senator and ask to support HB 5344. Look up your State Senator’s contact info HERE. When you call or email your State Senator, simply provide your name, town residence, and ask your Senator to please “co-sponsor HB 5344 LAW.”


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