In a state which already offers relatively little protection for farm animals, a bill which passed in the Senate March 24th could have dire consequences for horses, cows, poultry and other similar animals in Arizona. Although the bill, at first glance, appears to combat animal hoarding, animal rights supporters have called it a wolf in sheep’s clothing and many fear that is will further weaken the state’s already meager animal protection policies.
According to Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the United States, this bill uses “a few red-herring provisions… to give the illusion that it benefits animals.” However, the implications could be much more sinister since the bill separates livestock and poultry animals from current animal cruelty regulations.
Shapiro points out the danger of making this distinction since it allows those who do not have the best interests of animals in mind to “chip away at protections in the newly-separated statute without fear of angering dog and cat advocates.” Unfortunately, the huge number of animals rights supporters who flock to protect dogs and cats has not yet been seen in support of farm animals. Separating these two types leaves animals like horses, cows, pigs and poultry open to significant abuses at the hands of agricultural lobbyists who only care about profit.
Another potentially negative effect of the bill is that it prevents individual cities or counties from creating new laws or continuing to enforce existing laws which protect farm animals. For example, under the new legislation, it will no longer be illegal to slaughter a cow in a backyard or abandon an injured horse in the desert since these creatures are no longer considered “animals” under Arizona law.
The Arizona Humane Society called the new bill “appalling” and said that it will “create loopholes that will allow heinous abuses to go unpunished.”
One of the most tragic aspects of this bill is that is was passed through stealth efforts by agricultural lobbyists. Last year, a similar bill was brought before the Senate, but was crushed by strong opposition by animal rights groups. This year, the provisions were added into a strike-everything amendment, which allowed the bill to slip more quietly through the process.