This post is going to be a little political.
You can stop reading now. Right now. Turn back. I warned you.
All about Humane Voters of Arizona
Ok, disclaimer out of the way. Humane Voters of Arizona acts as a watchdog for state legislation involving all types of animals. If you want to learn about state laws and how they affect your dog, follow this group.
When it comes to dogs, the Arizona state legislature does a lot. Last year, they banned faux service dogs; in 2017, they passed Good Samaritan laws to legally protect people who break a car window to rescue a dog or kid.
This year, legislators want to fine people $100 if they drive with an animal on their laps, according to Arizona Sonora News.
Humane Voters of Arizona keeps tabs on that legislation like that by tracking bills and voting records of legislators. They also survey brand-new candidates on their views.
Just as importantly, HVA keeps an eye out for bills that could harm animals or erode existing protections.
New attempt at animal abuse laws
This year, they will be working with others to create a special Class 5 felony penalty for those who abuse animals.
Animal-rights champions and law enforcement both want to make animal abuse a felony instead of a misdemeanor. If an animal abuser was charged with a Class 5 felony, he could get mandatory counseling.
Animal lovers believe this could help reduce acts of animal cruelty. Law enforcement believe it could help prevent violence against humans.
Saying animal abuse is often comes before assaults, domestic violence and homicide, groups like the National Sheriff’s Association supports the move. It cites a landmark academic study that showed animal abusers were five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people.
The bill failed in last year’s legislature. It was opposed by the Arizona Cattleman’s Association that argued the language was so broad that it could be used to charge ranchers with felonies if they kill dogs who chase their cattle.
What else is cooking at the legislature
This session, HVA also will look out for efforts to limit the citizen-initiative process. Unlike other states, Arizona allows citizens to propose legislation. Arizona voters have several times successfully used the process to protect animals. In 1994, voters banned leg-hold traps; in 1998, they outlawed cockfighting and in 2006, they voted down gestational crates for pigs.
Lawmakers fought against all of those animal protections but voters passed them overwhelmingly, says Karen Michaels of the HVA.
How things are improving for animals
Michaels started in animal-related legislation in the late 1980s/early’90s as she became concerned about the link between poorly treated farm animals and safe food for humans.
When it comes to animal rights, people are changing their minds, says Michaels.
More legislators vote bipartisan when it comes to protecting animal rights.
They aren’t so much wrapped in being a Republican or Democrat but just want to do the right thing for animals, especially companion animals like dogs.
Michaels said she knew things were changing when she saw staunch conservative Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) share a podium with Tucson Democratic legislator Steve Farley to support particular animal legislation.
“I thought, this is great. Now we are getting somewhere.”
Wow, Democrats and Republicans working together – it’s like dogs and cats living together!