Buddy’s Law: Camillo’s animal cruelty legislation looking for Malloy’s signature

Penalties for those who harm man’s best friend are about to get serious thanks to Buddy’s Law, legislation initiated by State Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151st), which is before the governor’s desk now for signature or veto.

In most cases, the bill requires that the euthanasia of a domesticated animal be performed by a licensed veterinarian, while additionally adjusting the way animal cruelty is dealt with in the state’s judicial system.

In an interview with the Post, Mr. Camillo explained that Buddy’s Law was inspired three years ago by the brutal killing of a five-year-old German shepherd named Buddy. Mr. Camillo received a call from a woman who rescued and cared for local animals until they could be placed in a permanent home. She had taken Buddy from his original owner, who could no longer afford him, and eventually found him a home with a local woman.

Within 24 hours, Mr. Camillo said, the woman’s boyfriend contacted the rescuer to tell her that Buddy had bitten his girlfriend and would never bite again because he had put a bullet in the dog’s head.

After speaking to two rescue facilities who had held Buddy, as well as Buddy’s original owner, who was in tears upon hearing the news of his dog’s death, Mr. Camillo discovered that the dog had absolutely no history of biting, he said. To make matters even more conspicuous, he added, a day after the dog had been killed, the woman who had adopted him claimed to have shot the dog, rather than her boyfriend. This turn of events threw up a red flag, Mr. Camillo said.

Checking into the matter further, Mr. Camillo found that not only was there no record of the woman ever going to the hospital to treat her so-called wound, but that her boyfriend had an extensive criminal record, he said.

An avid animal lover his whole life, Mr. Camillo said he decided to at least introduce a law that would be tailored to this kind of incident, all the while knowing it would be an uphill battle because a witness would be needed to successfully prosecute someone who had killed or injured an animal. And although Buddy’s Law died on the Senate calendar last year, it was approved by both houses this year and simply needs Gov. Dannel Malloy’s signature to be officially enacted.

There is no official timetable on the calendar but Mr. Malloy’s Deputy Press Secretary David Bednarz said this week that the governor and his staff are still reviwing the legislation. Mr. Camillo has said he doesn’t want to assume anything, but he feels that concerns the governor had last year about the bill have been addressed.

If it’s signed into law, the legislation would impose a $1,000 fine or one year in jail on anyone caught killing a domesticated animal.

The law is not absolute, however, as it includes four exceptions to its stipulations: farm animals, law enforcement, an attack in-progress on a person or another animal, and for a dog who has suffered a serious injury or condition and is in a rural location.

The law would also not have an effect on existing statutes or research facilities that use animals. In fact, late in the game, some of the companies who do research on animals began lobbying against the bill, forcing it to return to the Senate at the last minute to be amended and reapproved — a scenario that is often “lethal” to a proposed bill, Mr. Camillo said. And as much as he hated the idea of allowing the facilities to conduct research on animals, Mr. Camillo included the carve-out for those institutions because it would not only allow the legislation to pass, but the original intent of the law was not to go after such facilities, he said.

Harmful behavior towards animals is often something that escalates to include humans if the offender’s actions go undetected or untreated, Mr. Camillo said. In fact, the number of people who hurt animals and go on to become violent with humans is staggering, he said.

“The statistics are pretty alarming,” he added.

The concept behind Buddy’s Law is to protect voiceless animals, as well as to prevent an individual’s violent tendencies from escalating somewhere down the road, Mr. Camillo said. And although it will be the most concrete legislation regarding animal cruelty in Connecticut, Mr. Camillo hopes to strengthen the law in the future, making penalties more severe. If possible, Mr. Camillo will make the state’s penalties the toughest in the nation, he said, adding that he would like to see them increase to at least a $5,000 fine or five years in prison for anyone caught killing a domesticated animal. For the time being, however, Mr. Camillo said he is satisfied having Buddy’s Law “in the books.”

Once the law has officially passed, the goal will be to promote awareness of it, Mr. Camillo said. The state representative aims to ensure that all 169 town police departments in Connecticut are not only aware of the law but promote its enforcement and are consistent in its practice, he said.


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