New Penalties for Animal Abuse Cases

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Tougher penalties await anyone caught abusing an animal in Illinois after a law championed by three Chicago area elementary school students goes into the effect. This comes as one Rockford shelter, already dealing with half a dozen neglected animals, takes in another abandoned pet.

The workers at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Rockford have seen their fair share of neglected animals come through the doors, the latest, a two day old kitten found stuck in a fence. That kitten was found on Saturday and by the ended of the day, was taken in by a foster family to be bottle fed until it can be adopted. Even though Noah’s Ark isn't able to investigate animal abuse cases, workers have seen the former owners of neglected pets face serious penalties.

"We work with Winnebago County Animal Services and they have a group of wonderful people that follow up on the cruelty cases,” says General Manager Dena Gates. “Some of our dogs and cats previous owners have had jail time, fines and probation."

Those penalties are getting higher. A new law more than doubles the fine for a first offense from $200 to $500 dollars. A second offense in a three year period jumps to a $1,000 fine and a third violation is a $2,500 fine plus probation. Workers at Noah’s Ark know stiff fines may not prevent every case of animal abuse but it’s a step in the right direction.

"These animals have not had a voice for many, many years and it is about time people step up,” says Gates. “There's huge responsibility. Owning an animal is like a child and you have to care for it in the same ways."

Noah’s Ark workers say the three puppies that were found tossed in a dumpster in July are in a foster home now and are taking milk well from a bottle and growing. The two kittens thrown into the road around the same time are healing and should be ready for adoption soon. The German shepherd named Lindy who was found tied to the door of the ark is gaining weight and almost ready to be adopted.

The students who came up with this measuree are Claire Hackmann, Brooke Martin and Maddie O'Dell from Patton Elementary School in Arlington Heights. The children read a book about students who rescued a dog from a puppy mill. They researched the issue further and contacted their local state representative.

It is already state law that anyone caught abusing an animal can be charged with a misdemeanor the first time. If found guilty, a person can spend up to a year in jail. A second animal abuse conviction is a felony with 1 to 3 years of jail time.

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