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Lawmakers Create Special Exemptions in Animal Cruelty Laws

State lawmakers voted Monday to create special exemptions from cruelty laws for farmers and ranchers despite complaints the measure would ease penalties on those who abuse and beat farm animals to death. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

Rep. Kate Brophy McGee said there are gaps in cruelty laws that need to be fixed. For example, the legislation would make hoarding of animals to the point where it’s dangerous illegal. And, it would allow a judge to deny the right to own animals to anyone found guilty of abuse. But, Brophy McGee said the political reality is the laws can be altered only if there are different provisions for agriculture. Rep. Eddie Farnsworth who was raised on a farm said that difference is appropriate.

“These are not the same animals as Fifi that Paris Hilton is carrying around,” Farnsworth said.

Proponents did agree to drop the most onerous provisions including one that would allow only the Department of Agriculture — and not police — to investigate complaints of abuse of livestock. Also gone is a provision requiring anyone with photographic or video evidence of abuse to give that to agriculture inspectors within five days. But, foes like Rep. John Kavanagh said there’s no reason to reduce the penalty for abusing farm animals to a misdemeanor. Kelsea Patton of the Arizona Humane Society agreed.

“We just do not think we can accept a mediocre win for Arizona cats and dogs at the expense for Arizona’s horses and cows,” Patton said.

The measure now faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.

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