Animal cruelty a felony under new law
Hawaii became the 43rd state to make cruelty to animals a felony offense now that Gov. Linda Lingle has signed a bill to protect pets into law at the Hawaiian Humane Society.
"Our pets are part of our families, providing us with unconditional love and companionship," Lingle said Friday.
"In return, we need to ensure that our pets are properly cared for and protected from cruelty and neglect," Lingle added.
Inga Gibson, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, praised the legislation sponsored by Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe).
"This is an historic day for animals, not only in Hawaii but in the entire United States," Gibson said.
"Yesterday, there were eight states where one could intentionally torture a companion animal and not face meaningful penalties," Gibson said. "Today, thanks to Sen. Hee, Gov. Lingle and other compassionate legislators, there is one fewer state on that list."
Under the new law, cruelty in the first degree occurs when a person tortures, mutilates or poisons a pet, causing serious bodily injury or death.
Pets are defined as dogs, cats, domesticated rabbits, guinea pigs, domesticated pigs and caged birds that are not bred for consumption.
The new Class C felony of cruelty to animals in the first degree is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.
The measure also renames the existing misdemeanor provisions as cruelty in the second degree, which is punishable by a maximum of a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Cruelty in the second degree applies to "every living creature except a human being." It includes torturing, tormenting, beating, starving, overloading or intentionally driving over an animal.