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Recent Changes to RI Animal Cruelty Laws 2018

Hello everyone. Your friend Tuki here, coming to you from my perch at the Potter League. I hope you are enjoying the summer. I love warm days when I can sit by the window and enjoy the breeze. Even though I am spending a lot of time enjoying the summer breezes, I have been listening to the staff here at the Potter League talk about some of the changes in animal welfare and cruelty laws that have gone into effect here in Rhode Island. Since I am a bird that likes to keep up to date, I thought you might like to know what is new too!

Laws and regulations about the care of animals are always important but they have been under discussion even more recently because of several local cases of animal abuse and neglect.

In 2018, laws were enacted in Rhode Island addressing several provisions of the care of animals. Here are some of the changes that were included:

  • Harsher penalties for individuals convicted of a second violation of animal mistreatment within 10 years of their first conviction. Anyone convicted a second time could go to prison for up to 6 years, be fined an amount between $500 and $5,000, and serve 100 hours of mandatory community service.
  • Prohibits anyone convicted of animal mistreatment from living with or owning an animal for 5 years for a misdemeanor conviction and 15 years for a felony conviction. Previously, this had been left up to the discretion of a judge.
  • A definition of what is considered adequate shelter for dogs which had not been specified in the previous law. According to the new law, adequate shelter means shelter that is appropriate for the species, age, condition, and type of a dog and that provides enough space for the dog to rest comfortably, have a normal amount of movement, and provides protection from injury, suffering and all types of weather conditions. Shelters that have wire or slatted floors that allow a dog’s feet to pass through the openings are not considered ‘adequate.’
  • Prohibits a dog up from being tethered (or tied up – I had to find out what tethered meant since that is not something we birds are familiar with!) with a head collar or a chain that weighs more than 1/8 of the dog’s weight.
  • Prohibits dogs from being tethered for more than 10 hours a day and more than 15 minutes at night.
  • Prohibits dogs from being kept outside when the temperature is too cold or hot including dogs that are being trained to hunt.
  • Requires people who care for animals such as shelters, veterinarians, and veterinarian technicians to report suspected abuse and protects those people from being sued for reporting.
  • Requires research facilities in colleges and universities to offer dogs and cats that are no longer needed for research for adoption.
  • Prohibits dogs who are not fully weaned (around 8 weeks old) from being sold.
  • Allows homeless people to take service dogs to a homeless shelter.

These are all good changes to the current laws designed to protect animals and hopefully there will be more changes in the future.

I also wanted to talk to you a little about what to do if you suspect an animal is being mistreated. First, you need to recognize the signs of mistreatment. According to the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA), the most basic kind of cruelty is depriving an animal of adequate food, water, shelter, ventilation, space, care or veterinary treatment. There are also some specific signs to look for in animals who may be suffering:

  1. Thin and emaciated to the point where rib and hip bones are visible.
  2. Little or no access to shelter, food and water.
  3. Wounded or injured, with an obvious wound or limping
  4. Coat in poor condition or hair that is badly matted
  5. Overgrown nails or hooves
  6. Untreated infections
  7. Tethered for long periods of time (more than 10 hours) or with a tether shorter than 6 feet or using a choke or prong collar.

You may see this list and think, ‘What should I do if I see any of these things?’ The most important thing you can do is to report the suspected abuse to the appropriate authorities. The Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association recommends reporting to your local animal control office or police department first and if you cannot reach anyone there, contact the RISPCA at cruelty@rispca.com or call 401-438-8150 ext. 4 or the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 1-800-628-5808 if you are in Massachusetts.

We all want our animal friends and family members to be happy and healthy and supporting laws that protect them is one way we can help that to happen.

‘Till next time folks!

Your friend, Tuki