Bills seek to strengthen Guam's law against animal cruelty
The court’s controversial decision to exonerate a pet killer in Yigo over legal technicality has prompted senators to file bills that would put more teeth to Guam’s anti-animal cruelty law.
Sen. Louise Muña introduced Bill 48-35, which categorizes the crime of the “unlawful killing” a pet as “animal abuse in the first degree.”
If enacted into law, this change would have the effect of making the crime a felony regardless of how the perpetrator kills or seriously injures the pet, according to the bill.
Superior Court Judge Michael Bordallo last week dismissed all felony charges against Gerald Wayne Cruz II, who was was indicted in a series of dog and cat shootings in Yigo last year, arguing that the case failed to establish intentional acts of cruelty.
“It is difficult to think of a less cruel way to kill an animal than death by gunshot,” Bordallo said, ruling on the test case of animal cruelty on Guam. The judge said the indictment accused Cruz “only of shooting a dog or shooting a cat” and that his action did not establish intention to inflict “mental and physical sufferings on the animals.”
Bill 48-35 would make the unlawful killing of another person’s pet a third degree felony. The bill also raises the penalty to a second degree penalty if the perpetrator commits multiple offenses or is a repeat offender.
“Most pet owners to don’t view themselves as ‘owners’ but rather as ‘parents’ of their pets,” Muña said. “Nearly all states have repealed firing squad executions laws and, in doing so, recognized it as a ‘cruel and unusual’ form of punishment. We also, must recognize that the unlawful shooting of a pet is an extremely cruel and barbaric act and I hope that prosecutors appeal this ruling.”
Sen. Sabina Perez’s Bill 49-35 seeks to clarify that “animal abuse in the first degree includes the act of cruelly and maliciously causing the death of an animal.”
The bill is co-authored by Sens. James Moylan, Joe San Agustin, and Amanda Shelton.
Guam law currently stipulates a third-degree felony for anyone who “cruelly causes the death” of an animal. The judge dismissing the charges cited this section, narrowly interpreting the term “cruelly” to only encompass whether an animal suffers from prolonged pain.
“It’s deeply disturbing that an individual can now trespass onto private property, shoot a family’s dog, and only receive a slap on the wrist,” Perez said.
“It was never the intent of the law to allow something like this to happen,” she added.
In order to prevent similar future rulings, Bill 49-35 amends the law to apply a third-degree felony charge to anyone who “cruelly or maliciously causes the death” of an animal. With this change, all cruel or ill-intentioned killings of animals will be considered a felony. Hunting game, self-defense, and other legal exemptions will continue to exist in statute.
“The recent court ruling creates a disturbing legal precedent,” Perez said. “Bill 49-35 makes clear the original intent of the law, which is to protect all animals from senseless cruelty.”