Illinois lawmakers want to allow for abused cats and dogs to have legal representation in court.
Proposed legislation filed by State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, would have the Illinois Department of Natural Resources create a county-by-county database of legal professionals, from lawyers to paralegals to experts on animal abuse, willing to step in on a dog or cat’s behalf when a person is facing punishment for neglecting or abusing them.
“You have abusers of animals that effectively get off with little to no punishment,” Skillicorn said. “No one’s really looking out for animals that could be physically abused.”
The bill is limited to dogs and cats. The motion to appoint a special legal aid for the animal may be made by any party in the court.
In most legal situations, pets are classified as property. It’s illegal to shoot someone or something, for instance, because it’s attacking your pet.
The most common instance of animal abuse, Skillicorn said, is when animals are left out in the cold or extreme heat, inside a vehicle for instance.
“Think of short-coated dogs, like chihuahuas, that are left out in the cold in the wintertime,” he said.
There are currently organizations that facilitate pro bono legal aid to represent the interests of animals, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society are two of the largest.
The bill has bipartisan support.
President Donald Trump signed legislation last year that makes animal cruelty a felony.