March 7, 2005 The Humane Society of St. Thomas expressed disappointment at Gov. Turnbull's veto of the overwhelmingly supported Animal Cruelty bill and now urges speedy action from senators to override the governor's decision.
"Two different Legislatures have now passed this bill with overwhelming support from the community" stated Joe Aubain, president of the Board of Directors. "Senators have carefully studied this bill and have taken into consideration the governor's concerns, making appropriate changes. It is unfortunate that the governor chose to ignore the guidance of two Legislatures and the overwhelming support of the community," said Aubain.
"Again, we are disappointed that the Governor did not engage the community in open dialogue about the bill , following the lead of the Senate." stated Joe Elmore, executive director of the Humane Society of St. Thomas. "For six months, the Governor has refused to meet with members of the animal welfare community or have his staff attend hearings on the bill . The Governor is badly misinformed on the bill ," said Elmore.
Why the Senate should override the Governor's Veto
– Both the 25th and 26th Legislatures debated and revised the Animal Cruelty bill . In neither legislature was there any dissenting votes or testimony, not even in the committee hearings. No senator was against this bill .
– Four independent polls indicate that approximately 90% of the community supports this bill becoming law:
News2 Poll 92% For, 8% Against
St. John Source Poll 93% For, 6% Against
St. Croix Source Poll 87% For, 12% Against
St. Thomas Source Poll 89% For, 10% Against
– The executive branch was absent during important hearings on the legislation and did not consider the overwhelming data supporting the linkage between domestic abuse and animal abuse. (Source: Latham Foundation and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
– Animal violence is family violence. The spirit behind the legislation is to catch perpetrators of animal abuse before they abuse women and children.
– The penalties for certain abuses are actually more lenient than federal law in the circumstance the governor made reference to ("bird's nest"). Moreover, any decision to prosecute will be made by the Attorney General's office, so that prosecutorial discretion will effectively mitigate any undue consequences. Indeed, such discretion is routine in the implementation of Virgin Islands' criminal code. For example, Title 14 V.I.C. § 1083(1) makes stealing an item worth $100 a grand larceny. However prosecutions for grand larceny generally arise when much larger amounts have been stolen.
"Hanging and setting cats on fire, disemboweling dogs while they are alive, driving nails through cats' heads, and starving animals to death, contrary to what the governor has stated, is willful intent to harm the animal. The governor continues to misrepresent the rationale for the bill and where the penalties would apply," said Elmore.
"We urge the Senate to move forward on this bill exemplifying the leadership it demonstrated during its original and subsequent passage by overriding the governor's veto," stated Aubain.
Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to [email protected].