New Tennessee House bill aims to protect animals

JACKSON, Tenn. — House Bill 852, or the Tennessee Paws act, is sponsored by Rep. Bruce Griffey. The bill aims to give tougher sentences for anyone convicted of aggravated animal cruelty, animal fighting, and bestiality.

“A lot of these cases of neglect and cruelty are just misdemeanors, and we’ve seen some horrifying things down here that some of these animals have experienced and been through,” said Mariah Burk, director of the Haywood County Animal Shelter.

She says the shelter has several animals they believe may have been mistreated, but confirming neglect or abuse can be difficult.

“They don’t think that anyone is going to actually do anything about it or help the animal,” Burk said. “We get that a lot. We get a lot of people who are very hesitant to come forward and tell us about some of the things they’ve witnessed.”

A part of the bill would also require suspects in animal cruelty cases to pay shelters or rescues caring for those animals to cover medical and boarding care.

“With that kind of backing, we could actually do more, and that way it would help the animals,” Burk said.

Burk says if the bill passes, the shelter and rescues would be able to save more animals.

“We’d be taking in a lot more abused and neglected animals and bring a lot more awareness to our community, and the more our community is involved and knows what’s going on, the more it will help our animal shelter,” Burk said.

The hearing for House Bill 852 is set for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the state Capitol building.

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