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New law will impose stiffer penalties for animal abusers

Rosie, who suffered deep chemical burns to her face and head and had to go through months of treatment, has been living with a local family since shortly after the attack. (Photo: Sinclair Broadcast Group)

SAN ANTONIO – Starting next month, people who commit the most heinous crimes against animals will face a much stiffer penalty: up to ten years in prison.

Investigators at the city’s Animal Care Services say the new state law will ensure punishments fit the crimes.

"A lot of times, people can have the flippant attitude - it's just an animal,” investigator Joel Skidmore says. “I've heard that before: 'It's just an animal. I don't understand why I'm going through this.' Well, the term 'it's just an animal' isn't good enough anymore."

He’s seen the worst of what some humans are capable of doing, like when a man was caught on camera beating a dog to death, or when a pit bull called Rosie was doused in acid.

"What we see in San Antonio alone is just horrific,” says Kathy Davis, a board member from Texas Humane Legislation Network.

The group championed the new state law to hold animal abusers accountable.

"The punishment really hasn't fit the type of cruelty we see,” Davis explains.

Most abusers spend just months behind bars; two years, at most.

"The penalty now will be increased to two to ten years in prison for torture, for killing animals, for doing things like what the gentleman did to Rosie,” Davis says.

Rosie was brought back to health and placed in a loving home. But in many cases Skidmore investigates, the animals don’t survive.

"If you neglect an animal, you abuse an animal, you torture an animal, or you kill an animal - you're going to be found and you're going to be held accountable,” Skidmore says.

The law goes into effect September 1 and will hopefully serve as a deterrent in more ways than one. Research shows animal cruelty can be a gateway crime to hurting humans.

By EMILY BAUCUM
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