Two of the nation’s largest animal rights organizations routinely rank Wyoming in the bottom five for animal protection laws — and it doesn’t appear that status will be changing anytime soon.
A bill that would have increased the fines for those convicted of animal cruelty died Tuesday in the Wyoming Senate by a vote of 7 to 21.
In Wyoming, cruelty to animals is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $750. Aggravated cruelty to animals is a felony punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000.
The bill, which was proposed by Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, would have increased the maximum fine for animal cruelty to $2,500 and the maximum fine for aggravated animal cruelty to $10,000.
Gierau previously said it would be challenging to get momentum on the bill because Wyoming ranks low nationally for animal rights.
Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, said Thursday that he voted down the bill because he didn’t believe it would achieve its desired objective of preventing animal abuse. Most animal cruelty cases are really just a matter of neglect, he said, and most people only neglect their pets because they cannot afford to properly care for them.
Given that these people are already financially struggling, Boner said handing down a larger fine would only make the situation worse.
The senator said he was also worried about how the bill would affect the agricultural community, as some “common agricultural practices” are considered cruel by some people.
Gierau could not be reached for comment. But Lisa Kauffman, the Humane Society’s Idaho director who’s also temporarily serving Wyoming, said Wednesday that she was disappointed by the bill’s defeat.
Although she does believe that harsher fines would have sent a message that animal abuse is a serious offense, Kauffman would eventually like to see a bill that requires animal abusers to undergo counseling.
People who torture animals often have underlying mental illnesses or anger management problems and could likely go on to harm a human at some point, she said, adding that many mass shooters and serial killers started out by hurting animals.
“If they get that counseling, a trained professional will be able to pick up on that and hopefully get them treatment that could deter a murder or a domestic violence case down the road,” she said.
Kauffman said she plans to meet with state legislators this year to discuss why animal cruelty should be viewed as a red flag.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national legal advocacy organization for animals, and the Humane Society of the United States both cited Wyoming as one of the five worst states in the nation for animal protections in 2017.