The Territory needs an animal cruelty bill to move us forward socially. However, I am not disappointed that the Governor vetoed it, as it was in need of revision even before it passed. I will not vote for an override. This veto gives the Legislature a chance to improve it. The governor raised objections based on the fact the bill as presently drafted does not do exactly what we need it to do.
I voted for the bill with the intent of immediately amending it to correct its flaws. Now we have a chance to correct the flaws "one time," as we say.
First and foremost, a bill must say what it means. We all "just know" that it is not criminal to remove a thrushes nest from the eaves of your house and dispose of the eggs. We all "just know" that it is not criminal to catch a rat in a trap. The vetoed bill says otherwise.
Animal Cruelty legislation must acknowledge that we classify some animals as pests. The law must say what it means.
And throughout, the law must encourage COMPASSION among all living creatures. It should not impose draconian sentences on people for whom love of animals does not come easily.Punishment for animal cruelty should be directed at instilling awareness and compassion, rather than instilling fear of being incarcerated for a year. A better punishment would be six months community service in a veterinary clinic.
Do not despair, animal lovers. An Animal Cruelty bill is overdue, and the right one the Virgin Islands is on the way.
Craig W. Barshinger
Senator At Large
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