Topeka — Two lawmakers say they hope this will be the year to pass legislation cracking down on animal cruelty.
Two bills have been introduced, both increasing punishments for anyone abusing an animal, and another, which has been drafted, is expected to be introduced soon.
"The intent of this measure would be to find those offenders who take some joy in seeing something living tortured, maimed or killed so that we might prosecute and track them better as felons," Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, said.
His proposal would make extreme cruelty to animals a felony, a conviction that would remain permanently on an offender's record.
The other bill, proposed by Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville, would require animal torturers to undergo psychological evaluation, serve a county jail sentence, and have a sample of their DNA entered into a crime database.
Kansas is one of nine states that treat animal abuse as a misdemeanor, regardless how intentional or barbaric the abuse.
Haley started pushing for the changes in 1997, when a small terrier in Kansas City named Scruffy was tortured and killed.
Scruffy "was tortured to death by three grown men who videotaped their actions as they doused the small terrier in gasoline, put him in a garbage bag, slammed the bag many times on the ground, opened the bag, dumped the dog out, and put a match to him and put him out by beating him to death with shovels, all the time laughing, seemingly enjoying his agony," Haley said. "I thought it was horrendous and became interested in this issue."
Journey sponsored his bill after a Wichita incident just last year. A puppy named Magnum was found in a trash can with bound feet, a broken leg and large chemical burns. Within the next few days several more puppies were discovered in a similar condition.
Journey said he intended his bill to protect people, not just pets. That's why he wants to require the psychological evaluation and DNA registry.
"It is quite clear that there are instances where individuals have sadistically abused animals and then graduated to people and became serial murderers," Journey said.
Under Journey's bill, a first-time offense is not a felony. He said making a first-time offense a felony would make the bill more difficult to get approved.
The third animal cruelty bill would make animal cruelty a felony, but a felony similar to a DUI. The person would not receive more than a year in jail.
Journey calls this a felony "only by name." This bill also requires a psychological evaluation.
All three bills are expected to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but no hearings have been set.