What It Takes to Get the Job Done, Arkansas Style

Posted by Dana Campbell, ALDF Attorney on February 9, 2009

Good news out of Arkansas this past week: the governor there finally signed off on a felony anti-cruelty law that will take effect 90 days after the current legislative session concludes. This is a truly remarkable feat for 3 reasons:

First, up to now Arkansas had been one of the last 5 holdout states in the country to fail to pass any kind of felony anti-cruelty bill, despite efforts by citizens to introduce such bills repeatedly over the years. According to news reports, these efforts were met with stiff opposition from the state’s farm lobby and various meat industry groups for reasons I cannot fathom, since the proposed felony laws would have had no impact on their operations. A willingness by the state’s attorney general to broker an agreement between the animal industries and pro-animal-protection legislators prior to the start of this legislative session is what it apparently took to finally get a bill introduced and passed that all sides could live with. Kudos to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel for stepping in and getting the job done.

Second, the bill contains some really good provisions. According to the Arkansas News of February 4th, the bill will make a conviction for aggravated animal cruelty punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. That’s pretty good, compared to other states. The legislation also includes a five-year sentencing enhancement for anyone convicted of torturing an animal in the presence of a child.

Third, it’s evident some planning went into the process this time, since McDaniel didn’t just draft the bill, broker the deal, and throw a new law on the books for law enforcement; he backed it up with real money. According to the same article,  “…the state Criminal Justice Center will use $250,000 released by the attorney general to develop a course of study for enforcing the new law. The course will be used to train new and existing law enforcement officers.” What a fabulous idea that should be emulated in all states updating or passing new animal cruelty legislation.

Now about those 4 remaining states with no animal anti-cruelty felony law on the books…

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