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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 25, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSUPPORT BUILDS FOR TOUGHER ANIMAL-ABUSE LAW

SUPPORT BUILDS FOR TOUGHER ANIMAL-ABUSE LAW

A cat set on fire hanging from a clothesline. Yes, on St. John last year.
Three dogs abandoned by their St. Thomas owner who left them tied with no food or water. The animals died at the end of their ropes.
Youngsters flogging a horse in plain view of passersby one afternoon in the field behind Roy L. Schneider Hospital.
These, and more, are acts of inhumanity that St. Thomas Humane Society manager Hubert Brumant must deal with, and with no law-enforcement backup to speak of.
"The worst, the one that still touches me," Brumant says, "was the pigs. I just can't forget it." He relates that a St. Thomas farmer abandoned about 60 pigs in a pen, including mothers and piglets, and left the island. After many of the animals had died and the situation was reported, Brumant had to try to save the remaining animals. But it was too late, even for the piglets.
Almost as upsetting as these horrendous acts to Brumant and other animal advocates is the lack of enforcement locally of animal-cruelty laws. Christine O'Keefe, a retired member of the St. Thomas Humane Society Board, says, "It's not just about the animals, either. It's been proven that most mass murderers started out abusing animals. They start out on animals, then move on to people – it's just heartbreaking."
When the Senate Government Operations Committee convenes at 10 a.m. Monday on St. Croix, it will consider Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg's bill (co-sponsored by 12 of his colleagues) to put teeth into the existing animal-cruelty laws by increasing fines and punishment.
For those who care but cannot attend the hearing, O'Keefe has set up a lively e-mail campaign encouraging "Everyone Concerned with Animal Abuse" to fax messages to their senators. Her message, which includes a list of the Operations Committee members and their fax numbers, asks people to show support for the bill by sending lawmakers a simple letter relating any experiences they may have had witnessing animal abuse. Anyone who has not received the e-mail and would like it can request it by e-mailing O'Keefe at tcokeefe@att.net.
In her message, she also encourages people to create their own mini-petitions to gather signatures of citizens in support of the Donastorg bill.
Nicole Bollentini, Donastorg's media liaison, said that since the fine for illegal parking in a handicapped-only space has increased to $1,000, the citizenry and the police alike take the issue much more seriously. She believes a similar change of attitude could occur with stronger, enforced animal-abuse laws.
"Our office is getting lots of positive feedback and faxes about the meeting" Monday, she said.
Among other things, the bill would make "animal abuse in the first degree" a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $1,000 fine. And it would make "first-degree neglect," which covers torturing, maiming or otherwise inflicting pain on an animal — including cropping ears or tails outside of a veterinary environment — a felony punishable by three years in prison and a fine of $1,000. Peace officers, animal wardens and agents of the Humane Societies in the territory would have authority to enforce the law.
The bill also would establish an Animal Abuse Fund consisting of fines collected, grants, gifts and bequests, plus $100,000 a year from the General Fund. The money in the new fund would go toward expenses not otherwise reimbursed that are incurred by Humane Societies, shelters, animal impounds or veterinarians in caring for abused animals, and for cruelty-prevention education.

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A cat set on fire hanging from a clothesline. Yes, on St. John last year.
Three dogs abandoned by their St. Thomas owner who left them tied with no food or water. The animals died at the end of their ropes.
Youngsters flogging a horse in plain view of passersby one afternoon in the field behind Roy L. Schneider Hospital.
These, and more, are acts of inhumanity that St. Thomas Humane Society manager Hubert Brumant must deal with, and with no law-enforcement backup to speak of.
"The worst, the one that still touches me," Brumant says, "was the pigs. I just can't forget it." He relates that a St. Thomas farmer abandoned about 60 pigs in a pen, including mothers and piglets, and left the island. After many of the animals had died and the situation was reported, Brumant had to try to save the remaining animals. But it was too late, even for the piglets.
Almost as upsetting as these horrendous acts to Brumant and other animal advocates is the lack of enforcement locally of animal-cruelty laws. Christine O'Keefe, a retired member of the St. Thomas Humane Society Board, says, "It's not just about the animals, either. It's been proven that most mass murderers started out abusing animals. They start out on animals, then move on to people – it's just heartbreaking."
When the Senate Government Operations Committee convenes at 10 a.m. Monday on St. Croix, it will consider Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg's bill (co-sponsored by 12 of his colleagues) to put teeth into the existing animal-cruelty laws by increasing fines and punishment.
For those who care but cannot attend the hearing, O'Keefe has set up a lively e-mail campaign encouraging "Everyone Concerned with Animal Abuse" to fax messages to their senators. Her message, which includes a list of the Operations Committee members and their fax numbers, asks people to show support for the bill by sending lawmakers a simple letter relating any experiences they may have had witnessing animal abuse. Anyone who has not received the e-mail and would like it can request it by e-mailing O'Keefe at tcokeefe@att.net.
In her message, she also encourages people to create their own mini-petitions to gather signatures of citizens in support of the Donastorg bill.
Nicole Bollentini, Donastorg's media liaison, said that since the fine for illegal parking in a handicapped-only space has increased to $1,000, the citizenry and the police alike take the issue much more seriously. She believes a similar change of attitude could occur with stronger, enforced animal-abuse laws.
"Our office is getting lots of positive feedback and faxes about the meeting" Monday, she said.
Among other things, the bill would make "animal abuse in the first degree" a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $1,000 fine. And it would make "first-degree neglect," which covers torturing, maiming or otherwise inflicting pain on an animal -- including cropping ears or tails outside of a veterinary environment -- a felony punishable by three years in prison and a fine of $1,000. Peace officers, animal wardens and agents of the Humane Societies in the territory would have authority to enforce the law.
The bill also would establish an Animal Abuse Fund consisting of fines collected, grants, gifts and bequests, plus $100,000 a year from the General Fund. The money in the new fund would go toward expenses not otherwise reimbursed that are incurred by Humane Societies, shelters, animal impounds or veterinarians in caring for abused animals, and for cruelty-prevention education.