CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – A new bill, making animal abuse and neglect a felony in the State of West Virginia.

The Senate voted 31-2 in favor of the bill, with no debate.

The measure would create a charge of ‘Aggravated Cruelty to Animals’ for seriously hurting them; or withholding food, shelter, or medical treatments.

The Putnam Animal Shelter says they get several calls relating to animal abuse every year; and some of the cases are ‘completely devastating.’

“There’s animals we’ve seen,” says Putnam County Humane Officer Jon Davis. “They’ll be without food or water for days, and some we’ve seen near death by the time we finally find them and get to them.”

Davis says he hopes this new bill will help decrease the amount of animal abuse calls his shelter gets.

“At times we have to hold the animals involved here at the shelter until the case is resolved, which can take months at a time. Then, once the cases are finally settled, sometimes the offender gets less time behind bars than the animals involved,” says Davis.

Now that the bill is passed by the Senate, it will go to the House for consideration.