Massive Insanity Strikes Arkansas Legislator
A lot of what I repost on Habitat for Horses pertains to the insanity surrounding the folks that slaughter horses for fun and profit. For real horse people, reading these articles are like watching the dreams of the truly demented while they are experiencing the effects of hallucinating drugs. Unfortunately, while our collective reaction is usually, “Wait… What?,” the stories are true. Occasionally, the stories reach even further than any possibility of reality. Such as it is within the mind of one Jeremy Hutchinson, Chair of the Arkansas Senate Judiciary Committee, who, presumably all by himself, reached a new low in Animal Protective Legislation. To Wit:
“A “person who . . . knowingly conducts an investigation, including collection of evidence into alleged claims of criminal conduct involving an animal” is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.”
ARKANSAS ANIMAL WELFARE LEGISLATIVE ALERT!!! The following are reviews of SB13 and SB14 including links to the bills and contact information. Both are sponsored by Jeremy Hutchinson, Chair of the Arkansas Senate Judiciary Committee. Both bills are listed on the Senate Judiciary Committee Agenda for this Thursday under deferred. This means they may or may not address it at their discretion and if time allows. Both are very bad bills for animals, possibly the worst legislation we have seen to date and in the case of SB14, for consumers as well. They are garnering support from several interest groups. In my opinion, these bills represent a wholesale assault on many fundamental values shared by all people in Arkansas. Not only would these bills perpetuate individual animal abuse as well as abuse on industrial farms and mills, they would also threaten workers’ rights, individuals’ rights, consumer health and safety, law enforcement investigations and the freedom of journalists, employees and the public at large to share information about animal cruelty and something as fundamental as our food supply. Please contact the members of the committee to let them know of your concerns. We ask that you consider keeping all communications polite, respectful and to the point. To contact a Senator, either click or copy and paste this link to your browser: http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assemb…hamber=Senator
MEMBERS OF THE SENATE JUDICIARY:
Jeremy Hutchinson, Chair Benton Jeremy.Hutchinson@senate.ar.gov
Robert Thompson, Vice-chair: Paragould Robert.Thompson@senate.ar.gov
Eddie Joe Williams Cabot EddieJoe.Williams@senate.ar.gov
Jane English NLR firstname.lastname@example.org
Keith Ingram West Memphis email@example.com
Gary Stubblefield Branch, AR firstname.lastname@example.org
Jon Woods Springdale email@example.com
Bryan King Green Forest firstname.lastname@example.org
SB13: “AN ACT PROVIDING LEGAL PROTECTION TO ANIMAL OWNERS AND THEIR ANIMALS; TO ENSURE THAT ONLY LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES INVESTIGATE CHARGES OF ANIMAL CRUELTY; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.”Overview: This bill will criminalize and assess civil and practicable penalties against any animal welfare organization or private persons seeking to alert law enforcement to animal abuse. It will make the investigation of any case of suspected abuse by law enforcement impossible while holding law enforcement agencies financially and physically responsible for the care of animals in custody, a burden currently often covered through non-profit organizations and facilities.
This proposed legislation would eliminate the successful prosecution of any animals protected under current cruelty statutes by making the investigation and seizure of animals thought to be abused impossible. It also includes a whistleblower suppression clause preventing any humane society, humane officer or private person from collecting evidence to present to authorities for an initial complaint or to assist with collection of evidence throughout an investigation. Current cruelty statutes already require that only law enforcement can determine whether or not a case is prosecutable and an animal can be seized. In fact, there is little with this proposed legislation that is in any way beneficial to anyone except for abusers.
Among its many faults, here are a few:
1. No other criminal law requires this standard of proof for probable cause.
2. It requires the affadavit of two separate veterinarians, one of which represents the defendant to show probable cause prior to a warrant issued by a judge before seizure of the animal, regardless of the animals’ welfare status. Since not otherwise stated, the cost of obtaining the services of the veterinarians would be at the law enforcement agency’s expense.
3. Requires that the law enforcement agency conducting the investigation, house any seized animals at the agency’s expense, within a limited geographical location and only through facilities that are under their direct jurisdiction until the case is successfully prosecuted through the courts. For large animals and exotics which cannot be housed through traditional animal control facilities, seizure of an animal for its own protection would not be possible. If there is no conviction, then the law enforcement agency recovers no costs associated with the housing, care or vetting associated with protecting the animal’s wellbeing, costs and housing currently often covered by non-profit organizations. This would make the investigation and prosecution of a cruelty case a punitive burden on law enforcement.
4. Assesses criminal misdemeanor charges and makes liable for up to $5000 per each incident, any humane society, humane officer or PRIVATE person collecting any evidence in cases of animal abuse for the presentation to law enforcement. It also jeopardizes any licensing or right to act for any NGO involved with the collection of evidence of animal abuse. While masked as a “probable cause” explanation, this bill seeks to prevent the prosecution of any and all animal cruelty related cases by demanding more stringent requirements and assessing more potential liability to anyone seeking to stop or intervene in animal abuse. Our current cruelty statute, while ostensibly allowing the assessment of a felony charge, has already made the prosecution of such cases rare and unusual. This law’s requirements far exceeds the requirements established to protect parental rights in regard to their children.
To view the bill in its entirety cut and paste this link in your browser SB 13: http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assemb…o=sb13SUMMARY:
On SB14 “AN ACT OF CREATING THE OFFENSE OF INTERFERENCE WITH A LIVESTOCK OR POULTRY OPERATION; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.”Overview:
A whistleblower suppression law, this bill would criminalize the use of undercover investigative techniques often employed to expose both animal abuse and unhealthy practices associated with even the most basic protections of our food supply. The definitions contained in this bill would also exempt companion animals bred for commercial purposes such as puppy mills from the protection of such investigations. This proposed legislation would criminalize the use of undercover filming, photography or audio recordings of any commercial and private livestock and poultry operations. Called an “Ag Gag” law, its primary purpose is as a whistleblower suppression law designed to prevent investigations of farms and operations which produce animal products for human consumption. According to the broad definitions of “livestock” and “livestock operation” under SB14 as currently written, it would also protect puppy mills, commercial catteries, commercial stables and horse slaughter facilities or any animals bred or trained for the purpose of sale or use for work, sport, exhibit, entertainment and medical research in addition to those produced for the use of food and fur. Companion animals that are bred for such purposes would also be covered by this legislation, negating any cruelty statutes currently protecting them. It also impacts those investigations that have led to reforms to protect consumer health and welfare.
To view the bill in its entirety cut and paste this link in your browser SB14: http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assemb…measureno=SB14
Again, we caution you to work with your legislators and simply inform them of our concerns on behalf of animals and consumers.
Thank you for your attention on behalf of Arkansas’ animals!
Jake Hillard Arkansans for Animals, Inc.