Dogs, cats and all Washington animals would be better protected and prosecutors could seek harsher sentences under legislation sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn.
The measure unanimously passed the state Senate today.
"We are encouraged by this next and important step for Senate bill SSB 5501 which will strengthen the laws designed to protect companion animals in our community, while giving the prosecutors and animal control officers additional means to address issues of animal cruelty," said Kay Joubert, director of Companion Animal Services, PAWS in Lynnwood.
Under the legislation, animals left in enclosed spaces where their lives are in danger, such as cars, could be more quickly rescued by animal control officers. They also would be able to charge the pet owner with increased penalties and remove liability for the officer entering the vehicle.
"Every summer we hear terrible stories on the news about dogs who have been left in cars, but officers have to wait, despite a clear need for help," Fain said. "Animal control officers are there to help and must be given the opportunity to act. Also, those who ignore the safety of their pets must face consequences for hurting defenseless animals.
"The Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies must be commended for the work their members do every day to protect animals and make meaningful changes to the laws they need to support their work."
The legislation also expands the legal definition of animal fighting to apply to all animals instead of only dogs and roosters, enhances penalties for animal abuse and gives prosecutors the tools they need to charge abusers.
The proposal has the support of major animal advocacy groups including PAWS, ASPCA, Higher Ground Animal Sanctuary, Pasado's Safe Haven, members of the Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies and others.
The bill is now sent to the House of Representatives for its consideration.