The state Senate unanimously passed the Animal Cruelty & Violence Intervention Act of 2019, which was introduced by Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, in an effort to change the way California handles animal-abuse offenders.
Senate Bill 580 will require the most serious offenders convicted of animal abuse crimes to undergo mandatory mental health assessments and, at the discretion of the court, to attend ongoing counseling, Wilk said in a news release Wednesday. 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.
“Animal abuse crimes are serious and should be treated seriously,” said Wilk, who owns two dogs himself. “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.”
Wilk cited studies showing that many mass shooting suspects, school shooters and 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,” Wilk said in the release. “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.”
The legislation is now set to head to the Assembly for consideration.