2018 Bills

SB 91: Expanding Animal Abuse Definitions

This bill passed the Senate with a vote of 15-13 but was not voted on in the House.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it violates our principles and must therefore be opposed.

Abuse of a domesticated animal is illegal and could result in charges all the way up to a felony under Utah law.  Intentionally or recklessly hurting a dog or cat, for example, could result in a hefty fine and jail time. The law is written broadly enough to cover a plethora of cases in which a judge or jury can use reasonable logic and evidence to determine if a person has abused an animal.

Senator Gene Davis has proposed that this law be more specific to cover certain circumstances that he has arbitrarily determined as animal abuse. Senate Bill 91 contains these narrowly defined additions to be included under animal cruelty law.

A court currently has the discretion to determine if animal abuse should be punished. This bill limits a court’s discretion and automatically places anyone who has left their dog outside in the snow, for example, as a lawbreaker—even if that dog was happy to be out in the snow, playing with a toy. Because this bill is written so specifically, even if the court determined that the broken law did no real harm to the animal, the individual would still be in violation of the law and subject to punishment.

SB 91 would unnecessarily expand the circumstances of what falls under animal abuse. This limits the discretion of the courts and would result in unnecessary convictions.