MFOA Bill: Franky's Law (Cruelty case assistance)

Sponsor: Rep. Dale Denno, Cumberland, District 45

“An Act to Provide for Court Appointed Advocates for Justice in Animal Cruelty Cases” (Franky’s Law)

 

In late 2016, MFOA learned of first-in-the-nation legislation in which the Connecticut Legislature passed Public Law 16-30, often referred to as “Desmond’s Law.” Under this legislation, a judge presiding over an animal abuse case involving a dog or a cat has the option of appointing a volunteer, either a supervised law student or an attorney, to work with the prosecutor to advocate for the animal in the interest of justice. It was outside the box thinking, and MFOA immediately decided to introduce it to the Maine legislature. 

Desmond’s Law is named for a shelter dog that had been adopted and repeatedly tortured and ultimately strangled to death in 2012. According to the Hartford Courant, “Despite a recommendation by the prosecutor for prison time, the man charged in the crime received accelerated rehabilitation, which meant that his charges were dismissed and his record was wiped clean.” The public outcry was immediate and Desmond’s Law was born! 

A similar Maine case of aggravated animal cruelty occurred against Franky the pug in Winter Harbor last year and hence the renaming of the Maine bill to “Franky’s Law.”

The advocate may monitor the case, consult with individuals who may have information helpful to the judge, attend hearings and present information or recommendations to the court pertinent to the interests of justice. A list of attorneys is kept with knowledge of animal issues and the legal system is kept, as well as law students who are or may be interested as serving as a volunteer advocate.

It is no secret that prosecutors are overloaded with other criminal cases viewed to be more pressing, resulting in the under-prosecution of animal cruelty cases. If a cruelty case is pursued, it is often pled out.

This legislation is a win-win-win in which the court receives a needed resource, the student advocate receives valuable court experience, and the more animal cruelty cases won the stronger the deterrent. 

If we can adjudicate more people at the animal cruelty level, the greater society will benefit. Overwhelming evidence proves abusers of women and child begins with animal abuse; this bill will help in those prosecutions.

 

 

“An Act to Provide for Court Appointed Advocates for Justice in Animal Cruelty Cases”         (Franky’s Law)                                              

                                                                   FACT SHEET

  • Advocates may: (1) monitor the case; (2) consult any individuals with information that could aid the judge or fact finder; (3) review records relating to the condition of the cat or dog and the defendants’ actions including, but not limited to, records from animal control officers, veterinarians and police officers; (4) attend hearings; and (5) present information or recommendations to the court pertinent to the determination that relate to the interest of justice.
  • A list will be kept of attorneys with knowledge of animal issues and the legal system, as well as a list of law students. Advocates can be either voluntary lawyers or supervised law students.
  • This bill creates a program which will provide additional resources to courts and prosecutors, allowing them to handle animal cruelty cases more thoroughly and vigorously. 
  • In Connecticut between 2006 and 2016, 40% of animal cruelty cases were not prosecuted and 34% were dismissed. Only 20% went to trial, but 93% of those defendants were found guilty. The long-term statistics demonstrate that animal cruelty offenses in Connecticut were not being vigorously prosecuted.
  • Advocates serve on a voluntary basis, so there would be no cost or fiscal impact associated with this program.
  • Judges have the discretion on whether to appoint an advocate; defense attorneys and prosecutors may request them.
  • This is not some “animal rights’ initiative” that opponents sometimes use as their issue evasive mantra. In this case, it is simply providing a resource to help combat animal cruelty in a state that is recognized for its strong history of fighting for the humane treatment of animals. 
  • Less than a quarter of all animal cruelty cases end up with a conviction, or are dismissed or not even prosecuted. Additional resources to the court, as in this cruelty case assistance program, are needed. 
  • This program pertaining to dogs and cats only

                              

 

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