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New Arizona law protects animals from abusers

Removes pets for at least 5 years
Stops people convicted of animal cruelty from having pets for at least five years
Stops people convicted of animal cruelty from having pets for at least five years(KOLD News 13)
Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 10:09 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A newly-signed bill by Governor Doug Ducey, prevents Arizonans convicted of animal cruelty from owning a pet for a certain amount of time.

“We didn’t have anything to prevent the animal from going back to the convicted abuser after he or she fulfilled their sentence,” said Karen Michael, a board member at the Animal Defense League of Arizona.

Now under Arizona law, dogs or cats must be given up or put in a different household if their owner is convicted of animal cruelty, fighting or bestiality. The duration for how long varies from a five-year minimum for a misdemeanor all the way to life if a person has multiple felony convictions. Psychiatric treatment is often part of a person’s sentence.

“Opens up that mental health avenue or they aren’t going to get animals back,” said Debra Nolan, the founder of Don’t Leave Me, an organization that advocates for animals.

Nolan initiated the bill. She said a person can appeal and have their right to owning pets restored after one year if they’re getting treatment and are no longer a threat to animals.

“Hoarders to me aren’t criminals,” she said. “They’re more mentally fragile.”

She hopes addressing mental health will get to the root of the problem for all types of people convicted of harming pets.

“A lot of association between animal cruelty and other family violence especially against women. It’s a deep seeded problem,” said Rep. John Kavanagh who sponsored the bill.

Nolan said the connection between domestic violence and animal abuse is strong.

“Eighty-nine percent of women who had companion animals during an abusive relationship reported having their animals threatened, or killed or harmed,” she said.

The law has a “good cause exception” which allows an offender to live in a house with a pet owned by someone else. The offender must be under strict supervision from the courts and isn’t allowed to take care of the animal.

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