Rep. Urban honored for work on law linking animal cruelty with violence

The Animal Legal Defense Fund has named state Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, as one of its Top 10 Animal Defenders for her successful effort to implement Desmond’s Law in Connecticut in 2016.

Urban’s bill, which led to the law, allows judges to assign volunteer legal advocates, such as University of Connecticut law school students and pro bono attorneys, to assist prosecutors in compiling information in animal cruelty cases. Urban said she found busy prosecutors often do not have the resources to compile reports from police, animal control officers, veterinarians and others needed to prosecute the cases that result in offenders being put into diversionary programs.

It is the first law in the nation to allow for animal advocates in animal cruelty cases. Urban currently is working with lawmakers and animal advocates in other states to implement similar laws there.

“I want to see this happen in every state,” Urban said.

Desmond’s Law was named in memory of a New Haven pit bull mix who 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.

In the current session of the legislature, Urban has introduced a bill that would prohibit judges from granting a special form of probation that eventually erases the crime from the record of a person accused of violence against animals. It also would make bestiality a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

Urban has said she proposed the laws because those who commit acts of animal cruelty often go on to be involved in domestic violence and sometimes school shootings.

These include Devin Kelley, who killed 26 at a Texas church, and Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 at a Florida high school last week. Both previously tortured and killed animals.

“The most important issue that I have worked on — and continue to focus on — is the link between animal cruelty and future violent behaviors. The shooter in the recent tragedy in Florida had mutilated animals and used them for targets. If we had paid attention to that, we could have saved children,” Urban said.

The others being honored by the California-based group during National Justice for Animals Week beginning Feb. 25 are prosecutors, law enforcement officials and lawmakers. Also on the list of honorees is University of Connecticut School of Law professor Jessica Rubin, who worked on Desmond’s Law and is among the first attorneys approved as an animal advocate.

The award recognizes those who make outstanding contributions to the protection of animals, raise public awareness about animal abuse, advocate for stronger laws and demand better enforcement of animal cruelty laws.


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