Story by: Ginna Roe
SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Torturing an animal is already a felony, but under a new bill, it could be considered a domestic violence offense.
SB 45, sponsored by Senator Allen Christensen, R-Ogden, passed the Utah House on Wednesday.
The bill adds aggravated cruelty to an animal to the list of offenses that qualify as a domestic violence offense.
“You do it to an animal, you’re very likely to not even think twice about doing it to a human,” Christensen said.
He fought to pass the bill after law enforcement in Ogden brought the issue to his attention. Christensen said there is growing number of violent perpetrators that harm animals to manipulate domestic violence victims.
“A man had actually killed his girlfriend’s dog just to get even with her,” Christensen explained. “But in order to get a protective order, domestic violence had to happen and there was no domestic violence. It was in the domestic violence code.”
After hearing the account from police, Christensen began drafting the bill. It would give human survivors the ability to file a protective order against the attacker of the animal.
Local animal rights advocates say the legislation protects pets, too.
“We see it, I would say at least once a week, where we have an animal that’s been abused or neglected to the point where they need medical intervention,” said Jode Littlepage, director of Utah Animal Adoption.
Tyson, a 3-year-old Boxer mix, is an example. He first came to the shelter five months ago. Caretakers there say he’s a survivor of domestic violence.
“It escalated into, ‘If you don’t do this, then I am going to do this to your dog,’” Littlepage said.
Tyson got caught in the middle of a fight between people and was stabbed six times. He spent three months undergoing intensive medical recovery and now is nearly ready to be adopted.
“It’s one more tiny protective step for the animal,” Christensen said.
While the bill is meant to protect domestic assault victims, Littlepage said pets like Tyson can benefit from it, too.
Up next, the bill heads to Governor Gary Herbert’s office to be signed into law.