Editorial: Desmond’s Law could affect animal abusers in S.C.

ORANGEBURG – In 2016, the FBI started to track animal cruelty, including neglect, torture and sexual abuse, because of disturbing connections between abuse and killing of animals and dong the same to humans…

Desmond’s Law enacted in 2016 creates a program that allows courts to appoint supervised law students or lawyers to serve as volunteer advocates for animals in cruelty cases. The legal experts represent the interests of animals and justice, mirroring a practice that is already standard for children who have been abused or killed.

“Advocates research police and veterinary records, interview experts and present recommendations to courts regarding intermediate and final issues in cruelty cases. They aim to ensure that courts consider and protect animal interests,” Rubin writes. Volunteers track cruelty cases in the state and attend court hearings.

The first case to use Desmond’s Law involved a defendant accused of engaging in dogfighting, Rubin notes. Lacking a record of prior convictions, he was eligible to apply for an accelerated rehabilitation program through which a defendant complying with court conditions and not committing additional offenses may have charges dismissed.

A student under Rubin’s supervision argued that the defendant should not be eligible for the accelerated rehabilitation program because the crime of which he was accused was serious and likely to recur.

A Connecticut judge allowed the defendant to use the program but was receptive to imposing conditions on the defendant’s probationary two-year program term. For example, he may not have any contact with animals and must undergo a psychological assessment.

South Carolina may not be ready to implement its own version of Desmond’s Law but such an approach should be considered. It would be a way to give legal advocates for animals standing to do more than speak loudly in the public arena – a could be a factor in putting a stop to violence against humans later.

Reprinted from Times & Democrat, Orangeburg.