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      Should people who abuse animals face tougher punishment?

      23 dogs and 6 miniature horses were rescued from a Montmorency County home in January, 2013.

      April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month , and many people and animal rights organizations believe states need to tighten laws and make punishment for crimes against animals tougher.

      According to the 2012 Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) report , Michigan ranks fourth in the country under the best states for animal protection.

      According to the ALDF report: Illinois rates as the best state for animal protection laws. California rose from fifth to third position, in part, by strengthening its forfeiture and seizure laws in 2012.

      The best five states include:1.Illinois2.Maine3.California4.Michigan5.Oregon

      The worst five states include:46.New Mexico47.South Dakota48.Iowa49.North Dakota50.Kentucky

      In December, Governor Snyder signed legislation to increase penalties for people associated with animal fighting and animal cruelty crimes. Public Act 350 and Public Act 352 allows for the seizure of homes and automobiles when animal fighting is involved. The laws also makes it illegal to intimidate anyone to commit an animal fighting crime for financial gain.

      The Michigan Legislature has designed three primary provisions related to cruelty to animals: intentional infliction of pain and suffering, duty to provide care, and anti-animal fighting.

      The intentional infliction of pain and suffering provision carries the most severe penalties for animal cruelty and a violation is automatically a felony.

      A violation of the duty to provide care provision is initially a misdemeanor, which becomes a felony for a second or subsequent violation. A violation of the anti-animal fighting provision is either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of conduct related to fighting.

      According to Michigan law , if an animal cruelty violation involves 10 or more animals or the person had 2 or more prior convictions, the person is guilty of a felony and faces up to four years in prison, up to $5,000 in fines and 500 hours of community service.

      In March, 2013, two people were arrested for animal cruelty stemming from the investigation in Manistee County.

      Wanda and Maxwell Wiggins were arrested on charges of Abandoning/Cruelty to 10 or more animals, which is a four-year felony, according to the Manistee County Sheriff's Office. The couple will be back in court for a preliminary hearing on April 16.

      The arrests stem from an anonymous tip which led officers to find 40 to 50 dogs, most of which were underweight and covered in feces. Twenty-five of the dogs were taken from the home and placed in shelters around Manistee County.

      The Michigan Humane Society asks anyone who suspects animal abuse to call authorities. The ASPCA offers some tips to recognize animal cruelty. Among the warning signs: Open wounds, signs of multiple healed wounds or an ongoing injury or illness that isnâ??t being treated, untreated skin conditions that have caused loss of hair, scaly skin, bumps or rashes, extreme thinness or emaciation.

      To view state by state animal cruelty laws click here .

      Do you think people found guilty of abusing animals should face tougher penalties? Tell us what you think by voting in the poll below and leaving your comments.