Over 100 pieces of public testimony were submitted in support of an animal advocacy bill that would appoint advocates to court cases involving animal cruelty, a recognized precursor to future violent acts.
“After the horrendous tragedy at Sandy Hook we are all looking for ways to detect the early signs of mental instability. Clearly animal cruelty is one,” Rep. Diana Urban D-North Stonington, who introduced the bill, told the Judiciary Committee Friday.
The same testimony referenced a 1986 study of 36 killers conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which found that expressing cruelty towards animals and humans during childhood and adolescence can set the stage for future abusive behavior in adulthood, when it’s not stopped.
“What this bill does is it recognizes the fact that 80 percent of school shooters started with animal cruelty,” Urban said. “If you want to spend a chilling evening, like I did last evening, re-reading [school shooting cases] and saying to yourself ‘we could have possibly caught this if we had paid attention’.”
The bill’s goal of putting an animal advocate in the court is to ensure that cases of animal cruelty result in convictions and counseling rather than accelerated rehabilitation or dismissal.
An Office of Legislative Research report looked at animal cruelty cases from 2002 until 2012 and found that of the 3,699 offenses brought to the court, 16 percent were found guilty and 84 percent were either dismissed or nolled, meaning the prosecutor decided against prosecuting.
The advocates representing the animals would be volunteers from UConn Law School and law firms, like Price and Green of New Haven, who have offered their services pro bono. The option to volunteer will also be extended to Quinnipiac’s law school as well as Yale’s.
Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Jessica Rubin will supervise the volunteers from UConn Law School. Rubin explained that the role of the student volunteers would be to investigate the facts of the case and advocate for the animal’s interest in court.
“It’s like a win-win situation because we get the law students and they can now advertise that UConn law students can expect to get this experience,” Urban said. “It’s what we call in economics a positive sum gain.”
Rep. Rosa Rebimbas R-Naugatuck, thanked Urban for her proposition and for being able to do so without a fiscal note.
‘This is an animal cruelty issue and it is simply about what is that person capable of doing next,” Urban said. “Maybe, just maybe, we can catch some of these violent acts before they happen.”