(a) Notwithstanding any provision of this article to the contrary, a juvenile who has been alleged to have committed an act of delinquency which involved causing harm to an animal shall be given the option of proceeding in the Animal Cruelty Early Intervention Program as an alternative to the filing of a formal petition under section seven of this article, as the case may be. The decision to extend the option to enter the Animal Cruelty Early Intervention Program shall be made by the circuit court if the court finds that the offender is a suitable candidate for the program. No juvenile may enter the Animal Cruelty Early Intervention Program unless he or she and his or her parent or guardian consent. Any juvenile who does not successfully cooperate in and complete the Animal Cruelty Early Intervention Program shall be returned to the circuit court for further disposition as provided by section eleven-a or thirteen of this article, as the case may be.
(b) The Department of Juvenile Services shall establish a task force to create an Animal Cruelty Early Intervention Program. Services provided by the Department for Juvenile Services in the Animal Cruelty Early Intervention Program shall be consistent with the provisions of article five-b of this chapter and shall be designed to develop skills and supports within families and to resolve problems related to the juveniles who have engaged in animal cruelty. Services may include, but are not limited to, referral of juveniles and parents, guardians or custodians and other family members to services for psychiatric or other medical care, or psychological, welfare, legal, educational or other social services, as appropriate to the needs of the juvenile and his or her family.
(c) The effective date for this section is July 1, 2006.