This week, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 580, the Animal Cruelty & Violence Intervention Act of 2019, introduced by Senator Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, to change the way California handles animal abuse offenders.
“Animal abuse crimes are serious and should be treated seriously,” said Wilk. “The link between individuals who abuse animals and those who go on to commit crimes against humans is real. By ensuring animal abusers receive the mental health assessments needed we will be taking a step forward in breaking that link.”
Senate Bill 580 will require the most serious offenders convicted under animal abuse crimes to undergo mandatory mental health assessments and, at the discretion of the court, to attend ongoing counseling. The bill also allows a judge to assign less serious offenders to a state-approved humane treatment education course to teach them proper techniques for interacting with animals in a positive way.
Wilk cited studies showing that 90 percent of mass shooting suspects, half of all school shooters, and 71 percent of domestic violence offenders had serious animal abuse in their histories.
“Animal abuse is often the first act of violence committed by a troubled individual. Intervening with mental health assessments, and/or counseling at that early stage could save human lives down the road,” said Wilk. “This bill will not only protect innocent animals, it will also help mental health experts get someone the help they need to avoid escalating their crimes to include humans.”
Law enforcement leaders, Animal rights groups – including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the California Police Chiefs Association, the Humane Society of the United States, Social Compassion in Legislation and a number of individuals – are all in support of SB 580.
Senate Bill 580 now goes to the Assembly.
Senator Wilk represents the 21st Senate District which includes the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor Valleys.