As the nation waits for the president to sign a bill recently passed by both houses of Congress to make many forms of animal cruelty illegal nationwide, Guam’s own animal cruelty legislation has yet to have a public hearing.
Bill 185-35 was introduced by Sen. Sabina Perez in July and referred by the Rules Committee in October to the Committee on Health and Tourism, Historic Preservation, Land, and Justice. Any movement on the bill ends there.
And it’s unclear why there hasn’t been a public hearing for the legislation. The bill was introduced in response to the shooting of a pet dog named Pugua in a carport in 2018. Unfortunately, Pugua hasn’t been the only animal shot to death on Guam.
In another case of extreme violence against animals, in October, two dogs were beaten with a hammer and left to die in a pile of trash. Guam Animals In Need has offered a reward for information in that case. Though people tried to save the one dog found alive, it died, too.
Though it seems the October abuse was related to family violence witnessed by others and to which the police responded, there have been no arrests.
Tina Guzman and her group Guahan Paws for Pets recently rallied to raise awareness of animal cruelty, saying their reports of animal abuse are getting nowhere.
“There are so many animals that we’re reporting and they’re not getting noticed,” she told The Guam Daily Post.
She said requests for information to officials on the status of reported cases of abuse have gone unanswered but for the statement, “We’re looking into it.”
Perez’s Bill 185-35, called the Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety Act, would help fill the gaps that remain even if President Trump signs the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act — the PACT Act — which he’s reportedly inclined to do.
Perez’s Bill 185 looks to improve three key areas of Guam’s animal cruelty laws. First, the bill clarifies Guam’s existing standards for animal cruelty and includes a new distinction between animal abuse and animal neglect to more easily allow for citations of the latter. The bill would increase penalties for severe animal abusers who have a history of family or sexual violence. Exemptions remain the same as found in current law, including for self-defense, hunting, and cockfighting.
Bill 185-35 “clarifies different forms of abuse, improves the methods of seizing abused animals and ensuring for their care, and provides for education, therapy and treatment to aid in rehabilitating offenders."
What’s also disconcerting is that, often, acts of animal cruelty are also seen in acts of domestic violence, according to Guam Animals in Need and various studies. The October incident certainly supports that correlation.
We urge our local legislators to allow a public hearing for Bill 185 and allow the community a voice in addressing this violent behavior. If, as a community, our civility is measured by how we treat the voiceless, then certainly a bill that protects our four-legged friends ought to be heard.