Low bill signed into law by governor creates stricter penalties for animal cruelty in Washington

A bill sponsored by Rep. Sam Low, R-Lake Stevens, aimed at deterring acts of animal cruelty through tougher criminal penalties for perpetrators has been signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee.

Under House Bill 1961, all instances of Animal Cruelty in the First Degree (RCW 16.52.205)—which is already a class C felony—will now be classified as a seriousness level III offense. This reclassification ensures perpetrators of these crimes will be held accountable by removing the possibility of inconsistent and potentially lenient sentencing. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys will have a clear understanding of the severity of these offenses and the corresponding penalties, leading to more equitable justice for animal victims.

“By aligning penalties with the gravity of the offenses, House Bill 1961 is sending a strong message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in Washington state,” said Low. “Inconsistency in sentencing benefits abusers because they know they can exploit gaps in the legal system, escaping appropriate punishment for their crimes. This bill addresses this injustice by providing a clear and consistent sentencing framework, ensuring that those who commit acts of animal cruelty are truly held accountable for their actions.”

House Bill 1961 was crafted by Low during the 2023 interim in consultation with Pasado’s Safe Haven, a Sultan-based animal sanctuary and advocacy organization.

“I am grateful for the individuals at Pasado’s Safe Haven, who played a pivotal role in the development and refinement of the bill’s language,” added Low. “This partnership underscores our shared commitment to ending animal cruelty and promoting compassion toward all living beings in Washington state. I look forward to continuing this important work in future sessions.”

House Bill 1961 will take effect on June 6.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov