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UVA Holds Symposium on Animal Abuse Laws - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

UVA Holds Symposium on Animal Abuse Laws

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On Friday, lawyers, scholars, and animal experts got together at the University of Virginia to talk about the laws we have to stop the abuse, and how they're changing.

At the symposium, law experts explained why we should all be on the lookout for animal cruelty, and what to look for if it is suspected.

Jennie Shuklis, the executive director of the Fluvanna SPCA, said, "Animal abuse laws can be interpreted so many ways and they're changing and it's very important to get the latest, you know, scoop on what the latest judgments are on the animal laws."

The symposium shed light on the current state of animal abuse laws, and what that means for people who live in the commonwealth.

Mimi Riley, the UVA Animal Law program director, says that Virginia has been a leader in standing up against animal abuse since the prosecution of Michael Vick. After the dog fighting case, Virginia reformed its animal abuse laws. Now, animal cruelty can be a felony.

Virginia assistant attorney general and animal abuse prosecutor Michelle Welch told the symposium audience the importance of pressing felony charges.

"People often graduate from animal abuse to human abuse," said Riley.

Welch said six out of eight of the last high school shooters and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer all started with animal cruelty. She urged the audience to report cases of animals that have inadequate shelter, space, water or food.

"We've seen cases of dogs that have been starved, or cats, we just had a case of a dog come in with severe skin issues. The neglect and the abuse just makes us sad and sick," said Shuklis.

Riley added, "People in central Virginia should know that it exists, that it is all around them, and that they can actually play a role."

The symposium was hosted by the Virginia Law Society. They say they hope the talk will help people be aware of the laws, and help prevent animal cruelty in the first place.

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