Arizona animal advocates celebrate new anti-cruelty law

Updated: Aug. 27, 2019 at 12:55 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Someone getting convicted of animal cruelty but getting off with a small fine and no jail time has been a problem in Arizona for years. In an effort to reduce animal cruelty and crackdown on offenders, state lawmakers recently passed a new anti-cruelty law. The law officially went into effect on Tuesday. The landmark law will impose stiffer penalties on animal abusers.

Tracey Miller is a field operations manager at the Arizona Humane Society. She said that prosecutors have always limited options, with many animal cruelty cases often pleaded down to misdemeanors. Now, the sentence can reflect the severity of the crime.

“It allows the most heinous crimes, the criminals, to be charged with what they should be charged with,” said Miller. “These individuals found guilty of these types of crimes have to do mandatory jail time, mandatory probation, supervised probation and they may have to end up getting medical treatment -- if that’s what courts orders.”

The Arizona Humane Society gets dozens of calls every day to report animal abuse. In 2018, they investigated more than 7,400 suspected animal cruelty cases. “We literally will see anything as minor as the animal has too many ticks and needs to be taken to the vet, to it has been shot and killed,” said Miller.

Until now, even the worst cases of animal abuse were classified as a “Class 6 felony,” the lowest felony designation. Now, prosecutors will have the option to charge a “Class 5 felony” and ensure the sentence reflects the severity of the crime.