Monday, April 2, 2012

Guest Opinion: Say No to HB 2780

Posted By on Mon, Apr 2, 2012 at 10:00 AM

The cattle industry already has numerous exemptions under Arizona's animal cruelty laws. Do they really need another one?

A bill that would exempt ranch dogs from local animal cruelty laws is close to passing the Arizona Legislature, despite the fact it is overly broad and could cause significant problems for animal cruelty enforcement. The bill is aimed at restricting Pima County and the city of Tucson’s authority, where animal cruelty ordinances are more stringent than state laws.

The case that prompted the bill was misrepresented to legislators by cattle industry lobbyists who claimed the exemption was needed for ranchers who tether dogs to keep them safe. However, the actual case involved a man who abandoned several dogs in a horse trailer for days last summer with no food and only green, slimy water to drink. You can read the case file at http://www.adlaz.org/content/ranch-dogs-report

As introduced, the bill language was so overreaching it would have created sweeping exemptions under animal cruelty laws. It was opposed by the Pima County Attorney’s Office, two Pima County supervisors, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, law enforcement agencies, the Animal Defense League of Arizona, the Humane Society of the United States, animal shelters and other groups. Senators Paula Aboud and Steve Gallardo strongly opposed the bill on the Senate floor.

Bill proponents agreed to tighten the language, and the amended version is an improvement. But it does not address the fact that this measure preempts local control and could create broad exemptions for animal cruelty under local ordinances, and could strip animal cruelty laws. For example, Pima County prohibits the use of tie-outs such as chains, leashes, wires, cables, ropes or similar restraining devices for the purpose of animal confinement. The city of Tucson also prohibits tie-outs. If passed, this bill could overturn those ordinances.

Although most farmers and ranchers do not mistreat dogs, under this bill someone could abuse a dog and claim the agricultural code exemption. Under Pima County and Tucson ordinances, “whoever overdrives, overloads, overworks, tortures, torments, cruelly beats, mutilates or unlawfully kills an animal” is in violation of the law. However under HB 2780, anyone could work a ranch dog to death and possibly be exempted.

HB 2780 is a potentially reckless solution to a nonexistent problem, using a case that had nothing to do with tethering dogs, but in fact involved serious animal abuse. The fact is that this bill, even in its amended version, is unnecessary, overly broad and restricts local control. Moreover, it sets a dangerous precedent by creating exemptions under local laws for special interest groups. It should be rejected.

For more information and updates on this legislation, visit the Animal Defense League of Arizona website at www.adlaz.org.

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