Cats; Class 5 felony to steal. (HB334)

Introduced By

Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond)

Progress

Introduced
Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law

Description

Crimes; larceny of certain animals. Makes it a Class 5 felony to steal a cat. Amends § 18.2-97, of the Code of Virginia. Read the Bill »

Outcome

Bill Has Failed

History

DateAction
01/04/2008Committee
01/04/2008Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/09/08 086943624
01/04/2008Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/07/2008Impact statement from VCSC (HB334)
01/10/2008Assigned Courts sub: Criminal
01/18/2008Impact statement from DPB (HB334)
02/01/2008Reported from Courts of Justice with substitute (20-Y 2-N) (see vote tally)
02/01/2008Referred to Committee on Appropriations
02/04/2008Committee substitute printed 080523624-H1
02/04/2008Impact statement from VCSC (HB334H1)
02/05/2008Assigned App. sub: Public Safety (Sherwood)
02/08/2008Failed to report (defeated) in Appropriations (11-Y 13-N) (see vote tally)

Comments

Cross Creek writes:

A thief is a thief, and they need punished if they steal.

Cross Creek writes:

I disagree with the crime vs. time, I feel status of the law already are set with anything of value under $200 is a misdemeaner and over is a felony. So I really do not understand all these different laws that can be covered under one law.

robert legge writes:

Is cat stealing a big problem?

Buddy writes:

I think that the current larceny statutes are sufficient. The General Assembly should be spending its time finding fat to cut out of the budget, while beefing up important items, such as transportation and public safety.

robert legge writes:

Cross Creek- so you don't distinguish between stealing one cent or $100,000? No gray area for picking up something that you probably should know you should turn in and breaking into someone's house and stealing their stuff?

Alison Hymes writes:

Is there a lot of cat stealing in Virginia? I've seen a lot of cat dumping, but not stealing, never heard of a single case. So stealing a cat will be a felony but failure to report abuse of a child by a mandated reporter remains a misdemeanour. Guess we know where our priorities are....

Tim McCormack writes:

@Alison Hymes: The point is not whether cat stealing should have a greater punishment, but whether the Class 5 Felony (which has clearly defined punishment guidelines) is appropriate for the crime. Increasing the punishment for failure to report abuse would have to be covered by a separate bill.

I don't hold a position on any of this, though, not being sufficiently versed in the details of the topics at hand.

christine w writes:

From "The Hook"
The cat bill, HB 334 carried by Jen McClellen (D-Richmond), makes it a Class 5 felony to steal a cat. The bill drew meows in the House but did make it out of committee. "The reason it's a felony to steal a dog is it's a useful animal," says Jaquith. "It's a working animal, whereas cats don't do anything."

Cats don't do anything?

right. my two INDOOR cats caught and killed a snake that had somehow managed to get into one of my bedrooms. this was shortly before the holidays.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

Your cat killed a snake because it felt like killing a snake -- it would have done it whether or not you or anybody at all owned it. Cats are not working animals, and existing law is designed to cover working animals. There are no seeing eye cats. No cat has ever pulled a plow. Cats will not help the paralyzed live an independent life. They will not hunt for truffles, guard your sheep, or provide milk. Cats, in short, are without economic value.

It doesn't matter how much you love cats, if somebody kills your cat, you are not deprived of any economic value. Cats are, after all, free. And that is the line between felony and misdemeanor. To deprive somebody of an animal of economic value -- a working animal -- is a felony. To kill somebody's gerbil, ferret, parrot or cat is a misdemeanor. There is logic to this schism.

I like cats...or, at least, kittens. My wife and I routinely foster cats for the SPCA -- we just adopted one out last week. They're swell critters. But, let's face it, they're fail the working test.

Cross Creek writes:

robert legge writes:

Cross Creek- so you don't distinguish between stealing one cent or $100,000? No gray area for picking up something that you probably should know you should turn in and breaking into someone's house and stealing their stuff?

I personally cannot stand a thief; I have 0% use for them. But I have to say a class 5 felony is a bit ridiculous for a cat. I prosecuted three brothers a few years back for stealing some of my Gamefowl from my brood pens. I agreed to plea bargain if I got my fowl back and they paid my price for the ones they sold or discarded. Do I feel my fowl deserve of a class 5 felony? No I don't, it is ridiculous as well. But I do feel that restitution for these animals should be awarded if the owner can prove value of what they own.

Cross Creek writes:

They plead guilty to a class 1 misdemeanor as well.

Cross Creek writes:

Waldo Jaquith writes:My wife and I routinely foster cats for the SPCA -- we just adopted one out last week.

Finally an answer to a long time question I have asked you many times.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

I'd be curious to know the rationale of those who support this bill, assuming that it's something other than "I have a cat and I love it." Specifically, I'd like to know why it should be a felony to steal a cat, but merely a misdemeanor to steal a parrot, gerbil, or rabbit.

Claire Ward writes:

Waldo-I've got some backstory on this bill. If you contact me privately (Your wife knows how to get in touch with me), I'd be happy to fill you in.

Publius writes:

In The Virginian Federalist's continuing series, General Assembly Analysis, we took a look at HB 334 and HB 334H1 in an article entitled General Assembly Analysis: Cats Out of the Bag.

Alison Hymes writes:

@ Tim McCormack---thanks, I actually am not stupid and actually do know this would require a separate law, it's called making a point. I'm curious why you feel the need to "correct" so many of my commnents. From your picture, I'm old enough to be your mother.

Tim McCormack writes:

@Alison: No need to get defensive — I'm sincerely not trying to attack you or "correct" you. I know you're not stupid. If I truly thought you were stupid, I wouldn't bother to respond. Also, our ages have precisely zero relevance to this conversation.

Back to the discussion:

My point is that the question of comparing the relative fitness of crime and punishment can become a red herring in the discussion.

I am interested in your thoughts on whether a class 5 felony is appropriate here, based solely on the definition and consequences of that class of crime.

Cross Creek writes:

Tim McCormack writes: I am interested in your thoughts on whether a class 5 felony is appropriate here, based solely on the definition and consequences of that class of crime.

I could not agree with you more, especially when the following crimes in Virginia do not even carry as close of a penalty for crimes against persons.

The following crimes are only a class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia:
Assault or Battery by Mob
Recruitment into a known criminal street gang (e.g., MS-13)
Kidnapping by a parent
Hazing of youth gang members
Reckless handling of a firearm so as to endanger life, limb or property
Assault and Battery
Assault and Battery against a household member (i.e., domestic violence)
Threat to kill or harm school personnel while on school property
Stalking, wherein the victim is put in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury
Sexual Battery
Infected sexual battery

I have never heard of a cat being stolen where I live. A class 5 felony is a serious penalty and how can we justify crime versus time here? I feel like Tim does on this, as I feel the crime is no where close to the time it deserves.

Alison Hymes writes:

I agree with Waldo, a cat is not a working animal and if someone steals your cat, they have not caused you financial harm. The consequences of a felony conviction are loss of the right to vote, loss of job opportunities, etc. They are huge and disproportionate to the offense of stealing someone's cat.

And it is ridiculous to make this a felony when the crimes Cross Creek listed above and failure to report abuse of a child are not :P.

Cross Creek writes:

Alison Hymes writes: And it is ridiculous to make this a felony when the crimes Cross Creek listed above and failure to report abuse of a child are not :P.

I am flattered that you agreed with me, appears we are all pretty much on the same sheet of music with this bill now.

Cross Creek writes:

Alison Hymes writes:
The consequences of a felony conviction are loss of the right to vote, loss of job opportunities, etc.

This is a big concern of mine when we want to tack a felony on to all these bills that can be delt with fines and community service and charges in the class 1 misdemeanor range and below. A felony pretty much can destroy a person’s life and take away some of their constitutional rights (Right to Vote, Right to bare arms), we need to take this in consideration when purposing all the bills that are introduced every session. Felony penalties have their place in our system, we just need to ensure we are putting them on proper crimes and being consistent with consideration of the penalties of other crimes covered by the Code of Virginia.