Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bill Proposed In Arkansas to Make the Cruel Treatment of Dogs and Cats a Felony Defeated In a House Committee

Not a good ending. Nuff said.


Animal cruelty bill defeated in committee

Tuesday, Mar 27, 2007

By John LyonArkansas News Bureau LITTLE ROCK - A bill to make cruel treatment of dogs and cats a felony was defeated in a House committee Monday.
Senate Bill 777 by Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, failed in a 5-8 vote in the House Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development. Under the bill, aggravated cruelty to dogs and cats would be a Class D felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The bill originally included cruelty to horses, but it was amended Monday to remove any reference to horses. Rep. Pam Adcock, D-Little Rock, who presented the bill to the committee, said the amendment resulted from a compromise with the Arkansas Cattlemen's Association.
The measure passed last week in the Senate in a 21-5 vote, after receiving the endorsement of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the House, however, the bill was referred to the Agriculture Committee, which some supporters believed sealed its fate.
Adcock said she was "extremely disappointed" by the vote but was not surprised by the opposition the bill faced in the committee.
"I thought that ... whenever they actually heard the truth, that it would change their minds, and it didn't," she said.
Adcock said she did not plan to present the bill again.
During the presentation of the bill, committee members viewed several photos showing the results of animal abuse, including aerial photos of the property of a Baxter County couple found guilty of 20 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty after authorities found more than 500 neglected dogs in their possession. Several of the animals had been displaced from their homes in other states by Hurricane Katrina.
Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery said the couple absconded after being sentenced and are still at large.
"If they're found outside the state, I can't go get them" because the offense is only a misdemeanor, Montgomery said.
Adcock said the bill includes a provision to require a psychiatric or psychological evaluation and, if appropriate, counseling for any person convicted of the offense. People who are cruel to animals often are abusive to people as well, she said.
Rodney Baker of the Arkansas Farm Bureau testified that the Farm Bureau opposes SB 777 but supports House Bill 2788 by Rep. Rick Saunders, D-Hot Springs. Saunders' bill would make aggravated cruelty to a dog, cat or horse a Class A misdemeanor on first offense and a Class D felony on any subsequent offense occurring within five years of a previous aggravated cruelty offense.
Baker said the Senate bill is too broadly worded. As an example, he said that under the bill a person who loses his temper while training a dog and hits the animal could be charged with aggravated cruelty if a juvenile is present at the time.
Several committee members gave other hypothetical examples of actions they feared might be prohibited under the bill, such as the branding of hunting dogs or the shooting of feral cats.
Fayetteville lawyer Eva Madison said the bill applies to people who knowingly hurt or kill cats or dogs "in an especially depraved manner" and would not apply to any of the actions the committee members described.
Voting for the bill were Reps. Sandra Prater, D-Jacksonville; Gregg Reep, D-Warren; Lindsley Smith, D-Fayetteville; Robbie Wills, D-Conway; and John Lowery, D-El Dorado.
Voting against the bill were Reps. James Norton, R-Harrison; Stan Berry, R-Dover; Lenville Evans, D-Lonoke; Scott Sullivan, D-De Queen; Roy Ragland, R-Marshall; Eddie Cooper, D-Melbourne; Monty Davenport, D-Yelleville; and Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs.
Saunders' animal cruelty bill passed in the House last week in a 57-26 vote. It has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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