Friday, March 16, 2007

Arkansas Looks To Make the Cruel Treatment of Dogs, Cats and Horses A Felony

Very positive to see this occurring in Arkansas. We’ll keep you all up to date on this bill.


Animal Cruelty Legislation Clears Senate Committee

Thursday, March 15, 2007 10:31 AM CDT
By Doug Thompson

Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — Cruel treatment of dogs, cats and horses would become a felony under a bill recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The committee also recommended a much-debated bill on expanding drug courts that retained a provision for an oversight committee that judges oppose.

Senate Bill 777 by Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, “very, very narrowly focuses on only the most extreme forms of cruelty to animals and only on dogs, cats and horses,” Madison told the committee.
Previous animal cruelty bills

have floundered because of concerns they could be misused by activists to disrupt livestock, poultry and other animal agriculture.

“We don’t want anything limiting agriculture in the bill,” Madison said. “It is restricted to torture, to purposely prolonging pain, to killing for pleasure and for neglect. It also prohibits cruelty in front of a child. Often abusers will tell a child, ‘If you tell, this is what will happen’” and commit cruelties on an animal, she said.

Exemptions are also included to allow veterinary practices.

Violation of the provisions of the bill would be a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, the largest voluntary association of rural residents in the state, would support the bill if the felony charge only applied to the second and subsequent offenses, spokesman Rodney Baker said.

The qualified support is a major change from the organization’s previous opposition to any law restricting owners’ use of their animals, he told the committee.

He said the penalty provision could be misused to harass animal owners or punish a one-time fit of anger with up to six years in prison, he said.

Madison said that she considered the change but rejected it.

“We’re not convinced that somebody needs a second chance to skin a cat,” she told the committee.

Tubby Smith, director of the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association, said the organization opposes the bill because it includes horses, setting a precedent for treating horses differently from other livestock.

Juveniles would be charged as juveniles and not be subject to sentences that would last beyond the offender’s 18th birthday, Madison told the committee.

Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery testified for the bill, saying that authorities in his county made arrests at a kennel with 500 dogs that were kept “in the most unbelievably deplorable conditions imaginable, and all we could charge the owners with was a Class A misdemeanor.”

SB 777 was recommended in a voice vote.

In the drug court bill, Senate Bill 18 by Sen. Bill Pritchard, R-Elkins, was recommended in a 5-2 vote of the eight-member committee. The bill retained a provision that would create an oversight committee including lawmakers, which raised concerns among judges over constitutional separation of powers.

Judges also object to language that could allow juvenile drug courts to get money under the bill. The bill would expand the drug court system and set standard drug court procedures.

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