83.2 F
Cruz Bay
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


July 13, 2001 – Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg's animal anti-cruelty bill got shot out of the saddle once again Thursday, as colleagues told him it was not scheduled for a Friday hearing of the Rules Committee after all and had, in fact, been "misplaced."
Donastorg, with the support of thousands of concerned citizens, has been trying to get the measure increasing penalties for animal abuse and neglect passed since the 23rd Legislature. It has gone from committee to committee repeatedly, only to wind up being "held in committee for more study," and never heard from again. However, at the end of May, the bill was approved by the Government Operations, Planning and Environmental Protection Committee and forwarded to the Rules Committee, seen by observers as a good sign.
It was in Thursday's Government Operations Committee meeting on St. Thomas that the matter surfaced. The meeting had been notable for its lack of discord, until Donastorg mentioned that his bill was on the Rules Committee agenda for its scheduled meeting Friday on St. Croix. The Government Operations chair, Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole, immediately replied that he thought it had been taken off the agenda – which came as news to Donastorg.
When Donastorg further questioned Cole and the Rules Committee chair, Sen. Carlton Dowe, who is a member of the Government Operations Committee, it was stated that the bill had been "misplaced."
Donastorg said he knew of several people who would be flying to St. Croix, or already had done so, for the Friday hearing. Dowe replied that they could bring their airline tickets to his office, implying the possibility of reimbursement.
The bill, which went before the Rules Committee on July 6, would make first-degree animal abuse a felony punishable by a fine of not less than $1,000 and up to five years in jail. Second-degree animal neglect would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to100 hours of community service. The measure defines second-degree neglect as failing to give an animal adequate care and has many other provisions intended to protect animals.
At the July 6 hearing, Sen. Adelbert Bryan, a consistent opponent of the bill, called it a "farce" and said nobody could tell him how to feed his animals.
In meetings last year, a petition with more than 3,000 signatures of animal advocates supporting the measure was presented to the senators at meetings on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Christine O'Keefe, a former Humane Society of St. Thomas board member and animal rights activist, voiced her concern Friday after hearing of the "misplacement" of the bill: "The opposition to passing the animal cruelty bill is just another troubling indication of our territory's lack of understanding," she said, of the relationship "between cruelty to animals and the proven link to cruelty to children, and, ultimately, adult human beings."
Countless studies "document that child abusers, wife beaters and mass murderers all started by abusing animals," she added. "When is the V.I. going to move out of this era of ignorance and self-sabotage and take the time to understand the root of its tragic problems?"
Claudia Laborde, immediate past president of the Humane Society board, said, "We have only to look at the number of domestic abuse and rape cases that are running rampant on these islands to realize how important it is to pass this bill. Law enforcement studies across the United States have consistently found that violent acts committee on women and children began with the perpetrator abusing and/or killing animals. If we care about this community, if we want to put a stop to human violence, then let’s make sure that our Legislature passes this bill."

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