Two bills aim to strengthen animal cruelty laws in Nebraska

Adding terminology and closing a gap in penalties

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Judges in Nebraska are put in a hard spot when it comes to enforcing an ownership restriction for people convicted of animal cruelty, depending on the class of the felony.

LB 829 would allow judges to enforce a 15-year ownership restriction for anyone convicted of felony animal cruelty.

Let’s break it down.

Currently, if you are charged with class 4 animal abuse, you are prohibited from owning another animal for up to 15 years.

Class 4 felonies “are typically our cases involving animal starvation or things of that nature,” said Patrick McGee, a deputy Douglas County attorney.

But the higher felony charge of class 3A currently does not have any restrictions on owning an animal.

Class 3A felony charges are for those “who use weapons to intentionally and maliciously harm animals and mutilate them,” McGee said.

The class 3A felony charge also includes those found guilty of holding cockfights and dogfights.

The Humane Society noticed this gap in the law and brought it up to Sen. Wendy DeBoer.

“When folks have a history of just really bad animal cruelty cases, we want to make sure that they have kind of gotten past that or that they are not going to do that again before we give them animals again,” DeBoer said. “We want to make sure that we are protecting the animals in Nebraska.”

Another bill works in conjunction LB 829, as it expands the definition of animal cruelty to include striking, hitting or kicking an animal.

The idea came after a video of a man kicking his dog in Lincoln went viral.

“I would like to have an amendment to ‘strike no justifiable purpose,’ as it was not my wish that there are any unintended consequences with the phrase that could be so open to interpretation,” Sen. Anna Wishart said. “There may be instances where someone needs to physically restrain an animal for their own safety or the safety of others. I brought LB851 for my four-legged constituents. I am a huge dog lover myself.”

Nancy Hintz, president and CEO of the Nebraska Humane Society, said, “These laws are very important because what they can do is they protect innocent victims who can’t speak for themselves, and that’s the animals in our community.”

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