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Animal Rights Activists Seek Tougher Cruelty Penalties

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Schuh Mike 370x278 (2) Mike Schuh
Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—When a Siberian Husky was shot and killed at a Severn dog park by an off-duty federal police officer, animal lovers were outraged. After the officer was convicted of misdemeanor charges, there was a call for stiffer penalties for animal abuse.

Mike Schuh reports on a tougher law working its way through Annapolis.

Bear-Bear, the Siberian Husky, died in Severn after he was shot in a dog park. But what happened to him is being felt in a packed, standing-room only hearing room in Annapolis.  

The changes to Maryland’s animal abuse law would include liquids to set animals on fire. It was written in response to Phoenix the dog. In 2009, she was burned after something flammable was poured on her. Likewise, the recent Mittens the cat case would also be covered.

If this law were to pass, the fine would go from $1,000 to $2,500 and time in jail would go from 90 days to six months.

Before the hearing, Bear-Bear’s owner Ryan Rettaliata urged lawmakers to move fast.

“After my incident, there must’ve been eight or nine other incidents around our country, let alone the state of Maryland, where this has happened,” Rettaliata said. “So I have to lend support for my dog and for the situation I’ve gone through.”

Bear-Bear’s death happened in Anne Arundel County. Its county executive pushed for the changes.

“We’re not going to tolerate the abuse of animals,” said Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold. “This abuse of animals is usually a precursor for serious crimes committed by juveniles against human beings. So it’s important to try to nip this in the bud.”

The companion bill will be introduced in the Senate next week.

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