Illinois Steps Up for Children and Companion Animals, Steps Back on Bobcats

HB 3231, a bill proposed by AWI that provides for additional penalties when animal abuse is committed in front of a minor, passed the Illinois legislature (unanimously, in both chambers!) and was sent on June 29 to Governor Bruce Rauner for his signature. As we go to press, the measure is before the governor and, given the widespread support, we anticipate he will sign it. Abusers force children to witness animal cruelty in order to exert control over them and instill fear in them. They deserve to face stiffer penalties for involving children in their crimes. Arkansas and Oregon, as well as Puerto Rico, have similar laws.

Illinois’ reputation as a good state for animals lost some of its luster, however, with the passage of a bill to allow hunting of bobcats. In January, as one of his final actions, the outgoing governor, Pat Quinn, vetoed legislation to reopen bobcat hunting and trapping. No sooner was he out of office than the legislature took up the issue again, with the House defeating and then re-voting on and passing HB 352. The Senate followed suit and the bill was signed into law by the governor. During the debate, one lawmaker actually compared the small, shy bobcat to the saber-toothed tiger. Bobcats, the only wild cat species left in Illinois, were nearly extirpated from the state by the 1970s. This law will undermine the state’s bobcat recovery efforts, which—though successful—are far from complete. An open season on bobcats in Illinois is not biologically, ecologically, or otherwise justifiable for wildlife conservation and is certainly not necessary for public safety.