Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston) has announced that Rhode Island has been ranked as the fifth best state in the country for laws protecting animals by the Animal Legal Defense Fund in the group’s eleventh annual year-end report.  Last year, Rhode Island was ranked seventh in the country.

“This is a true honor for Rhode Island and it demonstrates the high level of compassion and love our citizens have toward our domestic and wild animals in the state,” said Speaker Mattiello.  “The malicious abuse of innocent and defenseless animals is a repugnant crime and Rhode Islanders should be proud that we as a state will not stand for such atrocious activities and that abusers will be swiftly and severely punished for their crimes.”

Rhode Island moved up in the rankings due to two pieces of legislation that passed the General Assembly which tackled animal abuse and strengthened the punishments for convicted animal abusers.  The first piece of legislation (2016-H 7392A), sponsored by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), provides penalties for those who overwork, mistreat or otherwise treat an animal cruelly, when the conduct results in the death of the animal.  According to the law, any perpetrator whose animal cruelty that leads to death would be subject to the same penalties as those who maliciously kill an animal.  The second bill (2016-H 7317), sponsored by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), increases the punishment of animal abusers from two years to five years of possible imprisonment and from ten hours of community service to fifty hours of community service.

Both bills were in response to a case in North Providence in which a dog named Moses was ultimately euthanized after neighbors alerted police to the dog’s horrific malnourished condition.  The dog’s owner was arrested and charged with unnecessary cruelty to an animal, but, many felt the owner’s punishment was too lenient for such a cruel and horrific act.

Speaker Mattiello also praised the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which strongly supported the legislation in response to the Moses’ case and provided more than 13,000 signatures to the legislature in backing the bills.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. ALDF accomplishes this mission by filing high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm, providing free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes, supporting tough animal protection legislation and fighting harmful animal protection legislation, and providing resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).