Delegates make headway on animal abuse billA 9-month-old colt found starved and frozen to the ground was inspiration for a late revision in the Superior Days legislative agenda.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
A 9-month-old colt found starved and frozen to the ground was inspiration for a late revision in the Superior Days legislative agenda.
Today, as delegates approach state legislators to discuss school and government funding, a study and plan to expand U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes, and mining legislation, the delegation will also ask for bipartisan support for a bill written by Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range.
Delegates sought co-sponsorship for an animal neglect and abandonment bill.
“It’s always wonderful when you have 300 people come down to Madison to lobby for one of your bills,” Milroy said. “That usually doesn’t happen.”
However, in this case, it was local residents diligence that resulted in the bill.
The legislation seeks to protect animals by bringing clarity to Wisconsin statutes about what constitutes proper animal care.
Responsibility for providing food and water are spelled out and “abandonment” is defined.
The colt, known as Windchill, began to regain strength and weight after his rescue, but his organs were damaged and he died.
While the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office pursued charges of animal abuse and neglect, the language of existing law made prosecution difficult, prompting those involved in the rescue, part of the nonprofit Windchill Legacy, to seek changes in state statutes to make the language more clear.
“First of all, this is a totally grassroots endeavor; we are not any part of any national animal rights group, nor do we ever plan to be,” said Pauline Niemi, a member of Windchill Legacy. “We’re just a bunch of farmers from up north who saw something that needed to be fixed.”
Milroy, who didn’t seek support as a Superior Days issue, introduced legislation based of their research with the hope it can prevent such abuse and neglect.
Losing the privilege to own specific breeds of animals for increasing periods of time is a consequence of violations of the bill. Psychological assessments, treatment and anger management are suggested to break the cycle of abuse and neglect.
Milroy said he hopes by ending abuse and neglect against animals, it will have a positive effect on violence as a whole.
“We are trying very hard to just fill in some holes in our current statute that have caused some problems for law enforcement as well as for district attorneys,” Niemi said.
During the lobbying effort Wednesday, Milroy got several leads on a possible Republican co-sponsor of the bill, and plans to follow up with that next week, said Milroy’s spokeswoman, Marylou Kelleher. Milroy’s office also received a few calls with questions about the bill, she said.