SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The state of Georgia is cracking down on animal abusers, and it's going to save you tax dollars at the same time.
It's all thanks to a new bill signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal.
The law requires anyone accused of animal cruelty to pay for the animals' care while the criminal case is prosecuted.
Animal abuse is becoming more prevalent across the country. Georgia is just the latest state to pass a law placing that upfront financial burden on the abuser instead of the taxpayer.
Here's the way it's always worked: When Animal Control seizes an animal in an abuse or neglect case, that animal is usually placed in a shelter until the court date.
"Sometimes that can be a week, two weeks, sometimes months... and during that time the cost is placed on the taxpayer," said Larry Rountree, SCMPD Animal Control.
That cost is $10 for every day the animal is in the shelter. Not to mention any additional medical care the animal may need, like heartworm treatments that can cost hundreds of dollars.
"But then also behaviorally dealing with them. Some cases you need to have special staff deal with them, they can't be just your everyday volunteer who can walk the animal, because it might not have the right socialization. They may need other medical care," said Humane Society of Savannah Executive Director Michelle Thevenin.
The point is, it gets expensive. But now, that financial responsibility will fall on the abuser from the get-go, and if they don't make the payments, they have to give up the animal.
"Then the animal can be put up for adoption, and that cost stops right there," said Rountree.
Meaning fewer animals in limbo at the shelter and more of them in new "forever homes."
In the past three years, there have been more than a hundred animal abuses cases in Chatham County alone - and remember, one case can involve multiple animals.
"We've had a case where we had 30 animals seized from an area, and this would really free up a lot of space for stuff like that," said Rountree.
While no legislation can stop people from abusing animals, animal activists say this new law will at least hold the right person accountable from day one.
The folks at animal control told WTOC although it is rare, there are times when the person accused of abuse is found "not guilty" -- if that's the case, they can file for a refund of their money.