Nevada animal cruelty law turns 10, lawyers say work remains

Friday marks the 10th anniversary since Nevada began prosecuting animal abuse as a felony, but activists say the state still has a long way to go.

Cooney’s Law, sponsored by then-Senator Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, came into effect on October 1, 2011. The bill is named after a 3-year-old beagle in Reno who was opened by its owner, Raymond Rios. .

Former state senator Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, introduced the bill, which passed alongside his puppy mill bill. Manendo remembered that pushing both bills through was like pulling teeth, he said in a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“It was always such a fight,” he said. “None of them have ever been easy.”

In June 2011, Gov. Brian Sandoval enacted the Cooney Bill, allowing people who abuse pets to be sentenced to at least one year in prison. The Puppy Mill Bill added more stringent guidelines on breeders, including a ban on selling puppies under 8 weeks old.

Manendo also worked on a horse tripping bill, which failed in 2011 but was eventually passed, and a bill proposing a register of animal offenders, which died in the assembly.

“For me it was a step in the right direction,” he said. “We wanted more, but sometimes it’s just about getting something off the books so people can build on things like that later. “

It wasn’t until 2015 that a Nevada resident was convicted under Cooney Law. Prosecutors said George Papania, a former Pahrump greyhound breeder, left two dogs to fend for themselves when he moved to Las Vegas in 2013. One died and another broke a leg.

All cases before 2015 were settled through plea agreements, Gina Greisen, president of Nevada Voters For Animals, told reporters.

Since the creation of the Animal Cruelty Unit in 2017 at the Metropolitan Police Department, officers have investigated 650 cases of criminal animal abuse, according to data provided by the department.

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, co-sponsor of Cooney’s Law, said he regrets pushing for making animal abuse a crime. Segerblom said he is working hard on criminal justice reform to tackle mandatory crimes, like Cooney’s Law.

“Giving someone a crime is so destructive to that person’s life,” he said. “Once a crime is recorded, the way society treats you and what you are prohibited from doing is so intensified.”

Work to do

Nevada ranks 20th in the Animal Legal Defense Fund state report. Although there are crime laws, the law does not require that abused animals be surrendered before conviction, which can take years. Nevada ranks above Arizona but below California, Oregon and Washington in the west, according to the report.

Mary Lou Randour, legal counsel for the Animal Welfare Institute, said she hopes more law enforcement agencies will report their animal cruelty data to the FBI for researchers to analyze.

“In 2019, 20% of police services made a report. It’s not enough data, ”she said. “I can tell you that in Nevada only five police departments were involved in reporting animal cruelty.”

Randour echoed Manendo’s message to the Senate 11 years ago: Animal cruelty may be linked to other crimes, which is why the FBI is investigating animal cruelty cases.

“When animal cruelty occurs, other crimes occur in this home or this community,” she said. “If you care about the health of the family in the community, you should be careful. “

Contact Sabrina Schnur at [email protected] or 702-383-0278. To follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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