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JUNEAU - A Senate bill toughening penalties for animal cruelty now has a companion bill in the House.
The House Judiciary passed a rewritten version of Rep. Carl Gatto's bill Friday. It joins a growing queue more than 70 bills deep awaiting action in the House Finance Committee.
The Palmer Republican's bill was pending from last year and now matches a Senate bill by Anchorage Democrat Bill Wielechowski.
The bills turn egregious animal cruelty offenses, such as torturing animals, into low-level felonies with a maximum five-year sentence. Under current law, only repeat animal cruelty offenders can be charged with felonies.