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Lawmaker wants harsher punishments and mandatory jail time for animal abusers

Posted at 4:52 PM, Oct 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-02 11:02:46-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Tennessee lawmaker wants animal abusers to receive harsher punishments.

State Representative Bruce Griffey introduced the PAWS Act which stands for Tennessee Protection of Animal Welfare and Safety Act. Griffey feels animal abusers in Tennessee are getting off easy. It's something he witnessed first hand when he served as private counsel on a mass breeding case we covered out of Carroll County where animals were living in deplorable conditions.

"I was just completely disgusted and almost vomited the smell was so bad," Griffey said, "The problem with animal abuse cases is they're very difficult cases to prove in court, you don't have a live victim to come and testify."

Dead animals were found on the property as well. Donald Schoenthal and Tara Neutzler each pleaded guilty to 1 felony and 3 misdemeanors of animal cruelty. Schoenthal was sentenced to 120 days in jail and Neutzler was sentenced to 75 days in jail. Tthey're not allowed to own animals for 10 years. It turns out, while the case was going on, the couple was also breeding animals in Putnam County.

"A lot of people who run the puppy mills jump from jurisdiction to jurisdiction like we experienced in the Carroll County case," Griffey said.

Griffey wants convicted animal abusers to get more jail time so that doesn't happen again. "Currently if you get an animal abuse case it's a misdemeanor. There's no mandatory minimum fines, or jail times, or anything," Griffey said.

He believes owners should pay the shelter for the animal's care if they refuse to surrender them during court proceedings. "You're the one that should have to put up the bond to take care of the animals, not the state or the county, until the case is resolved," Griffey said.

If the bill becomes law it would require people who have sex with animals to be placed on the sex offender registry.

The hearing on the PAWS Act will be on October 14th. Griffey hopes to bring the PAWS Act back to the table during the next legislative session.