Lawmaker plans to prohibit convicted animal abusers from owning, babysitting or living with pets

Those convicted of animal abuse could possibly be banned from owning, babysitting or living with an animal if a Denver Democrat’s bill becomes state law.

Judges would also be able to include either therapy or anger management classes as part of a sentence.

“I think the real important piece of this legislation is the component that deals with judges being able to sentence folks to anger management or mental health treatment,” Rep. Alex Valdez, D-Denver, shared. “There’s a correlation between people who commit acts of violence against animals and those same people committing acts of violence against people.”

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HB19-1092 would allow judges to stop adults and juveniles convicted of a misdemeanor animal abuse from “owning, possessing, caring for, or residing with an animal of any kind” for a certain number of years.

For those convicted of felony animal abuse, the ban would be mandatory.

A first-year lawmaker, Valdez modeled the bill after a California law that prohibits pet ownership for a total of five years after a misdemeanor conviction and 10 years for a felony.

But Valdez shared how he received push back from members of the House Judiciary Committee.

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Valdez has plans to change it during the hearing to give judges more leeway when it comes to sentencing.

“We’re leaving (misdemeanors) up to judicial discretion,” Valdez shared. “They’re dealing with these cases day in and day out, and we don’t want to take away their ability to evaluate cases individually.”

As of late, judges do not have a lot of discretion when it comes to the pets of people who mistreated an animal, Valdez said.

“As much as I love animals, this bill is about helping people who do these sorts of things, so we can prevent them from committing worse crimes in the future,” Valdez shared.

According to a 2007 study for Sage Journals, women in domestic violence shelters were 11 times more likely to report a partner who had either harmed or killed a pet than women who had not experienced domestic violence.

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“The vast majority of shelter women described being emotionally close to their pets and distraught by the abuse family pets experienced. Children were often exposed to pet abuse, and most reported being distressed by these experiences.” the study states.

In a separate study conducted by researchers at Northeastern University, it was discovered that people who commit animal abuse were five times more likely to commit violent crimes against a person.

Valdez is hopeful that his bill will find support from both parties.

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In March, Florida Republican, Rick Scott, signed a similar bill into law in March of 2018 when he was the governor.

The bill was titled “Ponce’s Law,” and allowed judges to prohibit people convicted of abusing animals from owning pets as well as giving prosecutors more leverage in cases.

The bill was named in honor of Ponce — a Labrador retriever puppy that was found beaten to death in the Ponce Inlet backyard of Travis Archer two years ago.

“If Florida can pass this under complete conservative leadership, I think that we have a really good chance of doing this in Colorado as well,” Valdez shared.

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