SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A state lawmaker wants to make animal cruelty a felony. The law would crack down on some of New Mexico’s worst pet owners.

Rep. Daymon Ely said his bill is about making sure the law is strong, and doesn’t let people who commit these horrific crimes off the hook.

The new Democrat representative from Corrales wants to amend the current animal cruelty statute. The bill would make cruelty to animals that leads to injury or death a fourth degree felony, even if it’s not malicious.

That would apply to people who let their animals starve, recklessly abandon them or let them freeze to death out in the cold. Right now, that’s a misdemeanor.

“It gives district attorneys the tools they need to really prosecute people for cruelty. When you have a vague statute, something that’s not clear, then defendants can argue the law isn’t clear because it’s criminal penalties,” said Rep. Ely.

Right now, it’s only considered a felony for extreme cruelty to animals — that involves abusing or torturing an animal.

Rep. Ely’s bill would mandate people convicted of extreme animal cruelty receive court-ordered psychological counseling.

The bill also clarifies what is considered a “lawful justification” for killing a sick or dangerous animal.