Tennessee PAWS Act aims to help state's voiceless victims, punish animal abusers

Tougher punishments could be coming to people caught abusing animals. One Tennessee lawmaker says he’s trying to help voiceless victims. (Image: WTVC)

Tougher punishments could be coming to people caught abusing animals. One Tennessee lawmaker says he’s trying to help voiceless victims.

Tennessee House Bill 852, known as the 'PAWS Act,' will be up for discussion this week, and if passed will upgrade charges and sentences to anyone convicted of abusing animals.

It would require those convicted of sex crimes against animals to be listed on the sex offender registry, increase the penalty for animal cruelty and more.

Animal advocates I spoke with said if the Tennessee Legislature passes this bill, it would be a dream come true for all animals.

One animal shelter says it is a problem that's been going on in our area for some time.

Helping abused animals is a difficult and costly task.

"He's putting a lot of protections in there because honestly a lot of animal shelters have to look the other way sometimes, because they can't afford these big cases, they just can't," said Jamie McAloon, Executive Director for McKamey Animal Center.

McAloon says while they respond to hundreds of cases a year. One case out of Dunlap sticks out. There, a check on a local sex offender revealed more than 50 dogs and 20 cats were in living in deplorable conditions.

That case cost the shelter more than $20,000.

"It’s a huge burden the way the system is right now on animal shelters. because one they are living breathing animals and they have to keep them until the court cases is decided," said McAloon.

The bill would put some of the cost of taking care of the dogs on the person charged, providing some relief to overtaxed shelters.

"I would like to see stricter penalties for people that abuse and neglect their animals," said Amanda Williams.

Animal lovers, like Williams, are also voicing their support for the bill.

TN PAWS would increase the mandatory minimum sentence for offenders and prohibit them from owning animals.

"People don't necessarily treat animal abuse as seriously as I think they should. A lot of times they get a slap on the wrist and a fine. Not a lot of times do they get jailtime,” said Officer Tiffany Newcomb, Animal Service Administrator.

Officer Newcomb says this bill is a tall order, but if they can get it passed animals lives will be saved.

This bill is set to be heard before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday.

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