'There is a link between abuse in animals and abuse in people'

The first nine of over 100 dogs recently rescued from a Lane County hoarding situation became available for adoption Friday at Greenhill Humane Society. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - Cases of animal abuse are rare in Eugene, but according to police, cases can range from neglect to the intentional killing of an animal, and often times, abuser sentences vary based on criminal history.

In Oregon, animal abuse, like physical injury or trauma, is a misdemeanor. But "Aggravated Animal Abuse," like the malicious killing or intentional torture of an animal, is a felony.

Every year, the Oregon Humane Society takes care of thousands of at-risk animals.

In light of the recent animal abuse case that took place in Eugene, we reached out to learn more about what happens to those animals and their abusers.

The images are horrific, and many times networks choose not to share them on TV.

Animal abuse, especially at the felony level, is rare. However, Police say that when it's reported, they make sure to take it seriously.

"Somebody is knowingly or intentionally, recklessly causing harm to an animal," said Molly Monette, an Animal Welfare Supervisor. "So that could be anywhere from kicking to hitting to causing one's death."

Per Oregon law, the punishment for animal abuse or aggravated animal abuse in the first degree varies greatly based on the criminal history.

Someone with little or no criminal past usually gets three years of supervised probation with a potential jail sentence of up to 30 days. However, someone with a history of other violent offenses could go to state prison for up to five years.

"There is a link between abuse in animals and abuse in people," said Monette. "It's not necessarily that if you do one, you're going to do another, but there is a lot of research that shows there is a connection."

Eugene Police say that's one reason they take these crimes seriously, and want them reported immediately when they can collect evidence.

"We have a victim that can't tell us what happened, so we really have to go based on the evidence," said Monette. "So abuse can be more difficult to prove."

Statewide, the Oregon Humane Society cares for more than 3,000 at risk animals per year. In Eugene, Greenhill Humane Society takes care of abused or neglected animals during the criminal justice process, until the court makes a decision.

"We're all able to provide safer shelter, healthy food, and medical care as needed," said Sasha Elliott, with Greenhill. "Sometimes [the animals are] returned to owners, and other times we will be given the animals into our custody and we're able to find them new loving homes."

It's a process that can take days, months or even longer, depending on the prosecution and punishment for abusers.

Just this year, Governor Kate Brown signed into law stricter guidelines for dealing with animal abusers. One of the guidelines, House Bill 32-83, lengthens the amount of time some abusers are prohibited from owning an animal for 5-15 years.

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