Alaska Gov. Signs Animal Cruelty Bill

boy and dog

Update June 16, 2010: Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has now signed H.B. 6 into law! 

The final version of H.B. 6 strengthens penalties for animal cruelty and makes sexual abuse of an animal a crime. 

Under this bill it would be a crime to engage in sexual contact with an animal, including making photos or films for sexual gratification, of sexual acts between a human and animals; causing, inducing, aiding or encouraging another person to have sexual contact with an animal; or intentionally allowing premises under a person’s control to be used for such acts.   

Significantly, the following acts would be Class C felonies on the first offense: injuring or killing a pet or farm animal with poison, injuring or killing an animal by use of a decompression chamber, or "knowingly inflict[ing] severe and prolonged physical pain or suffering" on an animal.

Under current Alaska law such acts are a felony only on the third offense within ten years. Alaska Stat. §11.61.140. For more on the current law that was passed in 2008…..

Also, criminal negligence in the failure to care for an animal, injuring or killing an animal to threaten another person, or committing the newly created crimes of sexual contact with an animal would also be charged as felonies if the person has one prior conviction for animal cruelty within the past 10 years.  

For all of these crimes when charged as felonies, judges can order forfeiture of the animals and require payment for their care and also bar the defendant from contact with animals for up to 10 years.         

Under the bill, when a defendant’s criminal history is considered in charging or sentencing, animal cruelty crimes must be considered.  

Defenses and exemptions 

It should be noted that under current Alaska law it will be a defense to a prosecution for these crimes if the conduct of the "defendant

   (1) was part of scientific research governed by accepted standards;

   (2) constituted the humane destruction of an animal;

   (3) conformed to accepted veterinary or animal husbandry practices;

   (4) was necessarily incidental to lawful fishing, hunting or trapping activities;

   (5) conformed to professionally accepted training and discipline standards."

Also, these changes will not apply "to generally accepted dog mushing or pulling contests or practices or rodeos or stock contests."

The final version of H.B. 6 is a combination of 3 bills offered during the 2009-2010 session. For more on those as originally introduced, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.                      

Original report Jan. 2010: For the second time in just two years, Alaska’s legislature is moving to strengthen the state’s animal cruelty laws. 

SB 214 would make it a felony on the first offense to "knowingly" inflict severe and prolonged physical pain or suffering on an animal.

It would also be a felony on the first offense to kill or injure an animal with a decompression chamber or poison.                                                            

SB 214  also creates a  class A  misdemeanor for a  first offense and Class C felony for a second offense within 10 years for failing to care for an animal with criminal negligence that results in death, severe pain or for knowingly killing or injuring an animal with the intent to intimidate, threaten or terrorize another persion.                                                             
Making it a crime to kill or injure an animal to intimidate, threaten or terrorize another person will help with prosecutions in domestic violence situations where it is often the case that the abuser hurts or kills animals as part of the fear and abuse inflicted on a spouse or children. 

Alaska state Sen. Bill Wielechowski, the bill’s sponsor, pointed out in a recent committee hearing that in Alaska, stealing a $500 purebred dog or vandalizing a $500 portrait of an animal is a Class C felony, but killing or severely injuring the same pet is only a Class A misdemeanor.

"It doesn’t make sense," he said. 

H.B. 138 and H.B. 6                                                                                     

S.B. 214 has widespread support and a companion bill in the House of Representatives, H.B. 138, was introduced this past week by state Reps. Carl Gatto and Bob Lynn.

Another bill, H.B. 6, sponsored by state Rep. Bob Lynn, would make it a crime "to knowingly engage in sexual conduct" with an animal, facilitate someone else doing this or photographing or filming sexual conduct with an animal.   


Find all Alaska state representatives including your own here. Just click on their names for contact information. Write (faxes or letters are best) or call and urge them to vote yes to H.B. 138 and H.B. 6 to strengthen Alaska’s animal cruelty laws.

Find your Alaska Senators here and urge them to vote yes to S.B. 214