HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii lawmakers are considering legislation to crack down on animal abusers. Two bills would restrict people convicted of animal cruelty from owning or living with pets, but critics call the measures unnecessary.
Supporters said there have been several cases where people convicted of animal cruelty have been allowed to continue to own pets and sometimes sell them for profit. The Hawaiian Humane Society favors new restrictions.
"We think it is absolutely necessary when it comes to prohibiting ownership and possession," said policy advocate Jennifer Han.
Under the measures, anyone convicted of first-degree animal cruelty would be banned from owning or living in the same home with a pet for at least five years. For second-degree animal cruelty, the prohibition period would be one year.
"It's every day or every week that we are getting investigations going and ending on complaints coming in about animal abuse, neglect, things like that," said Han.
"I think it has a good intention, but it's just overreaction to some of the latest high-profile cases involving the puppy mills," said criminal defense attorney Victor Bakke.
Bakke said prosecutors can already ask a judge to prohibit an individual from being around animals.
"The problem is the mandatory nature of it. It's just not necessary, and Hawaii doesn't have very many situations or cases where there are mandatory penalties because you take the discretion from the judges," Bakke said.
If a pet belonging to someone else is staying in the house, the convicted animal abuser would have to leave. The Humane Society admits that is a tricky issue, but the organization is still pushing for stronger sentences and penalties.
"We have to think about these animals that have no voice and they're complete victims."