Urban targets animal abuse as precursor to violent crime

Hartford - State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, has introduced a bill in the General Assembly that would appoint an animal advocate in animal cruelty cases.

The advocates, which would be University of Connecticut law students or pro bono attorneys, would work to ensure that those accused in such cases are ordered to undergo counseling and/or serve prison terms and would not be allowed into programs such as accelerated rehabilitation, which end up erasing the arrest from their record.

"We want a conviction with counseling," she said. "We need to have this on the record."

Urban, who is co-chairwoman of the legislature's Children's Committee, stressed that research shows a clear link between animal and human abuse and rattled off graphic cases across the state in which animal cruelty was part of domestic violence incidents.

Urban also said another study has shown 80 percent of mass murderers began by abusing animals.

"The research is irrefutable," she said. "The people who do these kind of things also have a proclivity for violence towards children and adults."

Urban, who is known for her work on issues involving children and animals, said that the courts have not taken the problem seriously. But she said she has been able to get the issue on the agenda this year for the annual judge's summit.

The legislature's judiciary committee is slated to hold a hearing on Urban's proposal - House Bill 6690 - at 10 a.m. Friday in the Legislative Office Building.

Urban originally wanted to get the law included in the sweeping gun, school security and mental health bill passed by the Senate and debated in the House Wednesday but then decided against it.

"We keep saying we want to identify early signs of mental problems. Well, this is an easy one," she said.

Urban said the law would allow an animal advocate to be appointed by a judge or requested by a prosecutor. She likened it to a court-appointed guardian who looks out for the interests of a child in custody, abuse and other cases.

She said defendants would have to pay for counseling and treatment and would have to continue with it until it is deemed a success.

She said the law would not cost any money, as the advocates would be working for free.

Urban said Democratic leaders are supporting the bill.

"I think we'll get it done. I know it's going to make a difference," she said.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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