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Michigan bills aim to protect animals, one proposing tougher penalties for abusers

Woman playing with a dog
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Smiling mid aged african woman playing with her dog in the kitchen

Animal lovers and activists in Michigan are celebrating proposed legislation to protect animals and save taxpayers money.

Senate Bill 657 and Senate Bill 658 aim to provide resources for animal control and shelters to care for abused animals more effectively. The proposed legislation would separate civil cases from criminal cases, allowing abused animals to leave the shelter sooner, reducing the financial burden on taxpayers.

Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, a co-sponsor of the bills, said they would change the bond-forfeiture system.

"A defendant in an animal cruelty or neglect case would be required to either post a cost-of-care bond or forfeit the animal so that the animal can be adopted out to a loving home," Polehanki explained.

While the bills have been referred to a Committee on Criminal Justice, other animal welfare bills including House Bill 5587 and more have been voted out of the state House, ensuring tougher penalties for abusers.

Michigan lawmakers want to close a loophole in its felony sentencing guidelines with House Bill 5587. Currently, crimes against companion animals are not factored into the points-based system used to determine minimum sentences, often allowing offenders to avoid jail time.

Rep. Stephanie Young, D-Detroit, a sponsor of the bill, said it aims to include crimes against companion animals in the guidelines.

"It just simply gives the judge another tool in their toolkit that will allow them to rank what happened higher," Young pointed out. "Instead of getting 24 months probation, the judge can say, oh yeah, you're actually going to jail this time."

Dianne Reeves, co-founder of I Heart Dogs Rescue and Animal Haven in Warren, knows firsthand the effect companion animals have on their humans.

"What we're seeing in the rescue community with adoptions is more people view animals as family members than they do just pets," Reeves noted.

The Michigan Humane Society's cruelty investigation team in the Detroit area investigates more than 5,000 animal cruelty complaints each year.

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