'Windchill's Law' gets public hearing
A nine-month-old colt from Douglas County made national news when he was rescued in bitterly cold weather two years ago. Malnourished, covered in ice and snow and unable to stand, the wind chill ranged from 40 to 55 degrees below zero when he was...
A nine-month-old colt from Douglas County made national news when he was rescued in bitterly cold weather two years ago.
Malnourished, covered in ice and snow and unable to stand, the wind chill ranged from 40 to 55 degrees below zero when he was discovered.
In spite of the outpouring of care and support, the colt died 20 days later.
From this tragedy a grassroots organization formed in honor of the colt, naming themselves "The WindChill Legacy." The group is dedicated to ending the cycle of abuse that often begins with animal neglect. A major focus has been working toward reforming Wisconsin's statutes dealing with crimes against animals. Over the last year the group has been working with Rep. Nick Milroy, D-Superior, to draft the legislative proposal, Assembly Bill 747. Windchill's Law will be the subject of a public hearing this week in the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice.
The proposed legislation increases criminal penalties for committing crimes against animals in front of a minor child or causing a child to mistreat an animal.
"Children who are subjected to watching their family members abuse their pets are scarred for life mentally and often victims of child abuse themselves," said Kathi Tucker, president of Windchill Legacy. "They are also more likely to grow up and abuse their families and pets. We are doing what we can to stop this cycle of abuse."
With tiered penalties for abuse, Windchill's Law will put teeth into existing statutes.
"Windchill's abusers watched as he slowly starved to death and they ended up with little more than a slap on the wrist," said Polly Niemi, a founding member of the organization. "Far too often with animal abusers, as in Windchill's case, the punishment does not fit the crime."
Under the proposed law, a sentencing court may order an offender to undergo a psychological assessment and participate in anger management, psychological counseling, or treatment.
"Locking up animal abusers will serve as a deterrent to this appalling behavior and the option of treatment will hopefully decrease the rates of recidivism," Milroy said.
With input from the Douglas County District Attorney's office, a loophole in the law may finally be closed. Under current law it is difficult to charge animal owners that fail to prevent unnecessary and excessive pain or suffering with animal crimes. Recently a case was referred to the DA's office that involved a dog that was hit by a vehicle. The owners refused to treat the injuries, euthanize, or surrender their pet. The dog suffered for nearly a week before it was confiscated by the local animal control officer.
"We couldn't charge the owners with animal abuse because of the way the current statutes read," said Assistant District Attorney Lance Nelsen. "Changing the law to include failing to prevent excessive pain or suffering will enable us to prosecute irresponsible pet owners."
The public hearing by the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice will be held in Room 412 of the State Capitol at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, while Superior Days participants are in Madison.