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Urban's animal cruelty law now passed in Maine

Maine has adopted a version of Connecticut’s Desmond Law, a 2016 measure introduced by former state Rep. Diana Urban of North Stonington, which assigns a legal advocate to animals who are victims in cruelty cases.

Urban, who assisted supporters of the law in Maine in getting the law passes, said Sunday she is now working with a dozen other states, including New York and California, to pass similar laws.

“It is my fervent hope that by working to get Desmond’s Law in every state in our country that the warning sign of animal cruelty will be taken seriously and we will be able to save lives,” said Urban. “Kudos to Maine for joining Connecticut in taking this step to confront mass shootings and animal cruelty.”

Urban, who chaired the legislature’s Children’s Committee, has pushed for the law because of studies that show a link between those who abuse animals and people who then go on to abuse or kill people. For instance, Urban pointed out that Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people and injured 17 others at Parkland High School in Florida in 2018, had previously been the subject of complaints that he was trying to kill his neighbor’s pot belly pig babies.

Urban, who worked on the Connecticut law, with University of Connecticut law professor Jessica Rubin, said animal advocates have been appointed in 70 cases.

“I’ve been stunned by the success so far,” Urban said.

The law allows judges to appoint a pro bono lawyer or law student under the supervision of a law professor to advocate for justice for dogs or cats that have been victims of abuse at no cost to taxpayers. Urban said judges have also begun appointing advocates in cases involving cruelty to other animals.

Main’s law is called “Frankie’s Law” in memory of a pug that was beaten to death in that state. She said each state law will be named after a dog subjected to abuse.

Desmond's law is named after a New Haven pit bill that was beaten, starved, strangled and killed by his owner, who was upset his wife had left him. The man received accelerated rehabilitation, which means the charges were erased from his record after he served a period of probation and met certain conditions. 

Urban, who had to introduce the bill to create Desmond’s law in three legislative sessions before it was passed, said judges appreciate the law because it gives them additional resources without any cost. She has now created a an organization called Protecting Kids and Pets Partnership to assist with getting the law passed in other states with assistance from the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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