Ponce's Law intended to give harsher punishments to felony animal abusers

Posted at 3:27 PM, Oct 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-01 17:13:50-04

A new law named after a puppy that died last year in Volusia County from severe abuse will now hand down harsher punishments for people found guilty of felony animal cruelty.

"It clarifies the fact that a judge can and enjoin someone from pet ownership indefinitely,” said Scott Trebatoski, the Director of the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center. 

Ponce’s law will give a judge the ability to keep them from ending up under the care of a convicted animal abuser. It will be up to them to decide for how long. 

"People are recognizing that animal abuse often leads to child abuse or other abuse so I think we’re really starting to getting into an era of animal crimes are simply crimes,” said Trebatoski. 

Stephen Crawford, a criminal defense attorney says it’s not hard to prosecute an animal cruelty case but determining if it’s a misdemeanor or felony is the hard part. 

"There is a lot of public sympathy on the side of the animals, particularly domesticated animals like a dog or a cat,” said Crawford. 

The law helps define that more, and make prison time more likely for someone convicted of aggravated animal cruelty. 

"This is going to deal with that intent, and make it easier prosecutors to say no, even if you were negligent, you were going to be committing a felony, it’s going to be a more serious crime,” said Crawford.

"People need to know that it’s being prosecuted in order for it to be a deterrent,” said Trebatoski, who believes this law will achieve that over time. 

More than 40 of dogs were freed up for adoption at the Pet resource center Friday after they were rescued from two separate animal abuse cases. 

19 of them were from a case last month, where 61-year-old Esmond Peters was charged with 18 cases of improper confinement of dogs. The case is still ongoing, but all of those dogs were turned over to the resource center. 

The other 23 dogs came from a case last month against 41-year-old Jarvis Lynch. He was charged with 23 counts of animal cruelty and five counts of baiting, breeding, owning or possessing animals for the purposes of fighting. All of those dogs were also turned over to the Pet Resource center. 

To report animal abuse in Hillsborough County, click here.