Friday, July 13, 2012

Animal cruelty is cruelty

   Mar. 28, 2012 12:00 AM
The Republic |

A dog is a dog. Cruelty is cruelty. A bill before the state Senate ignores this logic.

HB 2780 exempts dogs used in ranching and farming from the state law against all sorts of animal cruelty, and it prohibits cities or counties from using their own anti-cruelty laws to protect these animals.
As a rancher, "I could torture my dog every day and not be held accountable," Kathleen Mayer of the Pima County Attorney's Office told a House committee.
In addition to her office, two Pima County supervisors and the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, the bill is opposed by the Humane Society of the United States and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Yet it passed the House with only minor changes.
Republican Rep. Penny Judd ran the bill in response to a case in which Pima County cited a rancher for a violation of a county ordinance that outlaws tethering dogs.
Yes, ranchers on the range might have occasion to tie up their dogs for safety's sake. But, in this case, the county responded to a complaint and found two dogs shut up in a horse trailer without food or water, and three others were tied outside with only green, slimy water available. The dogs were left tied up for two days, according to Democratic Rep. Steve Farley.
"This bill makes people think farmers and ranchers are routinely abusing their dogs, and they are not, " Farley said. "So, why do you need an exemption?"
Good question.
What's worse, the bill could create a shield for those engaged in such nefarious activities as breeding dogs for fighting, Mayer said.
An amendment may be offered in the Senate to narrow the exemption and clarify that this bill applies only to dogs involved in ranching or herding. It still strips cities and counties of the authority to enforce local animal-cruelty ordinances in these cases.
Mayer worked with Arpaio's office and the Arizona Cattle Growers Association on the proposed amendment. She says her office would be neutral on the bill if the amendment passed. Arpaio is likely to drop his opposition if the bill is changed, according to his spokeswoman Lisa Allen.
But even if amended, this legislation represents an unwise overreaction to what appears to be a perfectly legitimate use of a local ordinance to combat animal abuse.
It erodes efforts to protect animals, and it should be rejected.

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