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Animal Cruelty Penalties

Wyoming’s 65th Legislature: General Session Review

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It’s all over for this year. Check out our bitesized rundown of what passed and what failed in the 65th Wyoming Legislature’s General Session. Stay tuned this weekend for more analysis on the session highs and lows with our Robert Geha.

Thanks for watching and be sure to follow Cowboy State Daily for our expanded statewide coverage of Wyoming news coming to your feed in the days ahead.

In Brief: Felony penalty restored to animal cruelty bill

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Wyoming animal cruelty penalties
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A last-minute compromise in Wyoming’s Legislature this week restored a felony penalty to the state’s animal cruelty laws.

HB 235, as it goes to the governor’s desk, would make it a felony to abuse an animal with the intent of killing it or to engage in “aggravated cruelty” that results in an animal’s death. The bill had originally made repeated offenses of the state’s animal cruelty laws a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. However, the Senate removed all the language regarding the enhanced penalty and the House rejected the changes.

A compromise was reached late on Wednesday, the Legislature’s final day of its general session, restoring the felony penalty of up to two years in prison.

In Brief: Animal cruelty compromise reached, no felony for repeat offenders

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By Cowboy State Daily

A compromise was reached Wednesday on a bill that was originally intended to create a felony penalty for animal cruelty. However, the bill no longer contains any language regarding the enhanced penalty for repeat offenders of animal cruelty laws.

HB 235 originally would have made anyone convicted of animal abuse more than once guilty of a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. The Senate removed all of the language pertaining to the enhanced penalty and the House rejected the changes to its bills.

The compromise approved by the House on Wednesday still leaves the felony language out of the bill. However, as it stands, the bill would allow a judge to bar a person from seeing or caring for a pet if that person had been convicted in a domestic abuse case.

If the Senate approves the changes, the bill will head to the desk of Gov. Mark Gordon for his signature.

In Brief: House rejects significant changes to animal cruelty bill

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By Cowboy State Daily

Significant Senate changes to a bill originally designed to create a felony crime of animal cruelty were rejected Monday by representatives.

Members of the House on Monday voted not to adopt the Senate changes to HB 235 and instead to create a “joint conference committee” to meet with senators to address the differences in the two versions of the bill.

As approved by the House, the bill would have made repeated violations of animal cruelty laws a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. The Senate removed all language pertaining to the felony crime, leaving intact only a section that would let judges bar people from having contact with pets if they are convicted of a domestic abuse charge.

The three-member joint conference committees from both the House and Senate will be charged with reaching a compromise on the bill. If no compromise can be reached, the bill will die.

Income tax, party switching dead, lodging tax alive

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By Cowboy State Daily

The last of three bills that would have put restrictions on when voters can change party affiliations was among a number to die this week as the Legislature neared the end of its general session.

Legislators looking to wrap up their general session by Wednesday put in long hour this week finishing their work on a number of bills, eliminating several controversial measures.

HB 106 was the last of three bills that would have set time limits for people to change party affiliation. It would have set a deadline of May 1 for such changes. It was defeated in a 14-11 vote in its first Senate review.

Another bill killed would have imposed an income tax on large retail companies headquartered outside of Wyoming. HB 220 died without getting a review in a Senate committee.

Moving ahead, however, was a bill that would set a statewide lodging tax of 5 percent. HB 66 is set for a final vote in the Senate on Monday.

Approved with significant changes by the Senate was a bill originally designed to create a felony crime for animal abuse. HB 235 was amended to remove all language about the felony crime.

Animal abuse measure amended to remove felony language

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By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would have made it a felony to repeatedly abuse animals is heading for a Senate review, but without the felony penalty language.

The Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday approved HB 235, but removed all language strengthening the penalty for animal abuse.

As originally worded, anyone convicted more than once on a charge of cruelty to animals could have been charged with a felony and sentenced to up to two years in prison. Currently, animal abuse is a misdemeanor.

Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, proposed the amendment stripping the felony language out of the bill. She said as written, the language did not specifically define what an animal is and she feared it would not be approved by the Senate.

Steinmetz said if enforced, existing laws would be sufficient to address the problem of animal cruelty.

“There are a lot of penalties and statutes on the books that deal with that,” she said. “I think that they’re probably not being enforced as much as folks would like to see.”

The bill still contains language that would let a judge bar a person convicted in a domestic abuse case from owning or caring for an animal.

The bill is on the list of measures to be considered in the Senate’s “Committee of the Whole.”

In Brief: Animal cruelty bill undergoes major changes in committee

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animal cruelty bill advances in the Wyoming Legislature
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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that was designed to create a felony crime of animal abuse for repeat offenders was significantly changed by a Senate committee on Tuesday.

The Senate Agriculture Committee approved HB 235, but only after removing language creating the felony offense of animal abuse. Currently, a person can only be charged with a misdemeanor for animal abuse. The bill would have created a felony for anyone found guilty more than once of animal abuse, with a penalty of up to two years in prison.

However, before approving the bill on a vote of 5-0, committee members removed all language having to do with the penalty. The only section of the bill left intact was one saying that in cases of domestic abuse, a judge can order a person to have no contact with an animal or to turn an animal over to someone else in a household.

Wyoming Legislative Week-in-Review: Construction, Medicaid, minimum wage bills all die in Legislature

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By Cowboy State Daily

Funding for construction projects across the state fell in a unanimous vote in the Senate this week, joining several other high-profile bills that failed to make it through the legislative process.

SF 162 would have provided more than $50 million for various construction projects, including upgrades and new construction for community colleges and a new roof for the State Penitentiary. However, senators voted 30-0 against the measure in its final Senate review. Senate leaders including President Drew Perkins, R-Casper, said the bill’s death was part of the Senate’s attempt to save money to offset possible budget shortfalls next year.

Also killed was a bill that would have expanded the number of people in the state eligible to receive Medicaid. HB 244 was killed in its first review by the full House on Monday.

A measure that would have raised Wyoming’s minimum wage from $515 per hour to $8.50 also died. HB 273 was killed in its first review by the full House.

However, two bills aimed at limiting when voters can change their party affiliations were approved for further debate. HB 106 would require voters to change their affiliations at least two weeks before a primary election. SF 162 would require those changes to take place two weeks before absentee ballots for a primary election are mailed to voters — usually in mid-June. 

Also approved was HB 235, a bill creating a penalty of felony animal abuse.

Felony animal cruelty bill passes House

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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would give Wyoming its first chance to charge someone with a felony if they repeatedly abuse animals cleared the House on Wednesday.

HB 235 would create Wyoming’s first charge of felony animal abuse. While a conviction of animal abuse once would be a misdemeanor, any subsequent convictions would be felonies punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. It won approval on its final House review on a vote of 41-18.

Wyoming has never had a felony charge for animal cruelty, so even if people were found guilty of multiple counts or convicted multiple times, the harshest penalty they could face would be for a misdemeanor violation punishable by up to six months in jail.

The House vote sends the bill to the Senate for its consideration.

Felony animal cruelty bill wins initial House approval

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By Cowboy State Daily

An attempt to strengthen Wyoming’s animal cruelty laws won approval in its first House review on Monday.

HB 235, making some animal cruelty crimes a felony, won 37 “aye” votes to pass in its “Committee of the Whole” review. It will be read a second time Tuesday.

Under current law, the a person accused of animal cruelty could face a misdemeanor charge with a maximum sentence less than one year in jail. HB 235 would make it a felony for anyone to “unnecessarily or cruelly” beat, torture or otherwise harm an animal. The crime would be punishable by a sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Bill sponsor Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, said the state has needed a felony animal cruelty law on the books for some time.

“We’ve had 10 years now of trying to fix our animal cruelty statutes and we’ve piecemealed various things together that haven’t worked,” he said. “So this is the first large step that we’ve gotten to really put an aggravated cruelty to animal statute in place.”

Harsher animal cruelty penalties win committee approval

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By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would increase the penalties for animal cruelty won approval from a House committee Tuesday.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 to send HB 235 to the House floor for debate by all representatives.

The bill would make it a crime for anyone to knowingly or intentionally hurt an animal. A violation of the law would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. However, a second conviction would be a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Britney Wallesch, executive director and founder of the Black Dog Animal Rescue, said without the possibility of charging someone with a felony, Wyoming lags behind other states in laws designed to prevent animal cruelty.

“Without felony charges, that puts us at the bottom in terms of protections for animals across the country,” she said.

The bill would also make it a crime to stage an exhibition of any kind of animals fighting and would require the state Board of Veterinary Medicine to create standards for the euthanization of animals and regulate those who perform the euthanization.

Lodging tax clears first full House review

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By Cowboy State Daily

A proposal for a statewide lodging tax cleared an early hurdle in Wyoming’s House on Tuesday, while the Senate killed a bill that would have stiffened the penalties for animal cruelty.

Representatives, in their first full review of HB 66, agreed to move it forward to a second reading on Wednesday.

The bill would impose a statewide lodging tax of 5 percent, with 3 percent to be used to finance the state Tourism Division and 2 percent to go to local governments.

During its review of the bill, the House amended the measure to remove an exemption from the tax granted in the past for guides and outfitters.

Rep. Bucky Loucks, a member of the Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee which reviewed the bill prior to its debate on the House floor, said he likes the fact that the measure would make the state Tourism Division self-supporting.

“The bottom line is tourism is a great part of Wyoming,” he said. “It’s our second leading industry and it needs to be there. I’d like to see (the Tourism Division) supported by the industry it benefits.”

In the Senate, members defeated by a vote of 21-7 a measure that would have doubled some of the penalties handed down for people convicted of animal abuse.

Senate File 33 would have increased the fine for misdemeanor animal cruelty from $750 to $1,500, with that fine rising to $7,500 for a second conviction.

The Senate did give final approval to a bill that would limit opioid prescriptions for some patients.

Senate File 46, approved on a vote of 27-3, limits doctors to providing a 14-day prescription for opioids for patients who have not had an opioid prescription for 45 days. Cancer patients and those with chronic pain would be exempt from the limits.

The bill now heads to the House for review by representatives.

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