YUMA, Ariz. -
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey took a big step towards fully protecting the wellbeing of animals by signing a new law that'll provide harsher penalties for anyone that chooses to abuse man's best friend.
After passing in both the state House and Senate, Governor Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2671 this week.
The bill will create more severe punishments for anyone who intentionally abuses or tortures an animal.
Cruelty to animals can take many forms, from neglecting or abandoning an animal, to inflicting physical injury or failing to provide medical attention.
Animal hoarding, or keeping an excessive number of dogs or cats in a home or in cramped, unsanitary conditions, is also considered abuse and can be punishable under animal cruelty laws.
These types of offenses are felony crimes punishable by up to two years in prison.
The statute defines an “animal” as a mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian.
Current Arizona law states if a felony has been committed, there's a chance it will be tried in courts as a misdemeanor.
Under the new law, when all evidence is presented and a felony has been committed, the case will automatically be tried as a felony.
Signs to be aware of when an animal is being abused can come in the form of bruises or bleeding, patches of missing fur, thin, emaciated body, limping or inability to walk, animals repeatedly left outside without food, water or shelter from extreme weather amongst other things.
Lana Shapiro with the humane society believes this new law will improve the lives of animals in potentially abusive homes.
“I personally think that it will improve the lives of animals because I think that as a community if we understand the repercussions then there would be some hesitation,” she said.
Over the past 30 years, researchers have established significant correlations between animal abuse, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, elder abuse and other forms of violence.
Mistreating animals is no longer seen as an isolated incident that can be ignored.
It is often an indicator or predictor crime and a “red flag” warning sign that other family members in the household may not be safe.
Critics of the signed bill say that expanding the definitions and penalties is dangerous, and could potentially lead to wrongful convictions of innocent people.
In a tweet sent out by the governor, he said: “animal cruelty is despicable and Arizona will not tolerate it.”