Animals of all kinds will be better protected under a new law sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, signed into law Monday afternoon.
Animal protection officers and prosecutors will have additional tools to rescue animals in danger and seek more appropriate charges for animal abusers.
"All animals in this state deserve our care and humane treatment and to be properly protected under law," Fain said. "Too often we hear the worst case results of preventable mistreatment. These changes enable enforcement and care officers to better protect animals who need help."
One of the primary changes addresses animals who are left unattended in a vehicle or other enclosed space where their health or life is threatened due to extreme temperatures, or lack of water or ventilation. In situations where the animal is suffering or likely to suffer harm a control officer may enter the vehicle or space and remove the animal.
Prosecutors would also be able to charge a class two civil infraction with an up to $125 fine and in certain situations animal cruelty charges could be filed.
"The Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies is pleased and grateful to Gov. (Jay) Inslee and Sen. Joe Fain for their commitment and leadership in passing SB 5501 – milestone legislation that addresses and helps stop cruelty towards animals," said Kay Joubert, director of companion animal services for PAWS. "The Federation worked collaboratively with Sen. Fain, who understood that improving the laws of Washington to protect animals and create safer, more humane communities is a vital priority worthy of bipartisan support."
The legislation also strengthens first degree animal cruelty statutes, expands animal fighting laws from just dogs and roosters to all animals and increases the charges that can be sought by prosecutors for killing or stealing pets.
The update was supported by animal enforcement and care organizations, including PAWS of Lynnwood, Pasado's Safe Haven, the ASPCA, Higher Ground Animal Sanctuary and the Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies.