Animal enthusiasts favor bill
SB777 would make aggravated cruelty to dogs, cats and horses a felony
By Pat Hambrick
The Daily Citizen
Torturing; killing in a depraved manner; failing to provide sufficient care of a dog, cat, cat or horse that results in the prolonged suffering or death of an animal; or killing or injuring a dog, cat or horse in the presence of a minor would become a felony offense under SB777. The bill was introduced to the Arkansas Legislature Feb. 27 by Sen. Sue Madison (D-Fayetteville). Rep. Pam Adcock (D-Little Rock) is the lead House sponsor.
Arkansas is one of only eight states that do not have felony animal cruelty laws.
Jaxie Heppner, Director of Beebe Humane Society and the person law enforcement officers in White, Faulkner and Lonoke Counties call when they find abused animals, said SR777 needs passed because the current penalties are not enough to deter people who abuse animals.
The penalties are not stiff enough. They are just little inconveniences. There are too many repeated incidents, and no one takes it seriously. Thats why we need this bill. There are so many repeats. I go to the same places over and over again, Heppner said.
More importantly, Heppner said, is the relationship between domestic violence and animal abuse.
Even people who are not into animal issues should be able to see that. People who abuse animals move on to hurting people
For these incidents of horrible cruelty to animals, people need to know where those people (animal abusers) are, and they need evaluated. They are sick, she said.
Four years ago, Heppner worked to see an animal cruelty act put on the ballot in Arkansas, and it was defeated. She said one of the reasons for the defeat was propaganda circulated about the act that was untrue, including that if that act passed, people couldnt even kill a snake in their yard.
SB777 limits itself to aggravated cruelty against dogs, cats and horses and expressly states that it does not prohibit a person from defending himself or herself or another person who is being imminently threatened by an unconfined dog, cat, or horse. It also excludes a person injuring or killing an animal on his or her property that poses an imminent threat to the persons livestock or poultry.
A Good Samaritan attempt to render aid to an injured animal, veterinary research, and euthanization are among the other exclusions.
SB777 would mete out stronger punishment to people such as one recently convicted in Searcys District Court and reported on in The Daily Citizen. A woman was convicted of tying a dog to a very short leash without food or water on a July day when the temperature was 99 degrees.
The blue heeler was still alive and jerking as if it were having a heat stroke when spotted by a witness. . The dog was dead by the time police arrived at the scene. The misdemeanor charge resulted in a sentence for the offender of 10 days in jail, a $500 fine, 35 days in the work release program, and supervised probation for a year.
The stories of animal cruelty reported in The Daily Citizen are from all over the county:
21 counts on Fuller Road in north White County in 2006, eight charges for a Beebe man in 2004, three counts in Judsonia in 2006, a dead cat and four live kittens found in a stairwell of a Searcy apartment in 2006, eight abused horses in Beebe in 2004, seven animals - including three that had already died - removed from a Searcy home in 2006, a horse that was allowed to starve to death in Beebe in 2004, and more than a dozen dead and living pit bulls rescued from a Bald Knob drug dealers home in 2005. In addition, sheriff department reports indicate charges were filed against a Bradford man in 2005 and a McRae man in 2006.
Researchers say there is a strong connection between domestic abuse and animal abuse. A 1997 study revealed that animals are abused in 88 percent of pet-owning families where children are abused, according to information in an email from Eva Madison, President, Humane Society of the Ozarks in Fayetteville.
Kaye Candlish, Executive Director of White County Domestic Violence Prevention, and Heppner have both mentioned the connection between domestic abuse and animal abuse in interviews, as well.
Cruelty towards animals can be the first sign of a violent pathology that includes human victims. Notorious serial killers Jeffrey Dhamer, Ted Bundy, Albert DeSalve (the Boston Strangler), David Berkowitz (Son of Sam), and Dennis Rader (the BTK killer) all tortured animals before they started hurting people. Columbine students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and D.C.-area sniper Lee Boyd Malvo also tortured animals before becoming teenaged killers, Madisons email stated.
SB777 defines killing an animal in an especially depraved manner as meaning the person relishes the killing, evidencing debasement or pervasion, or shows indifference to the killing of the dog, cat, or horse, evidencing a sense of pleasure in the killing
The complete text of the bill may be found at www.arkleg.state.ar.us/ftproot/bills/2007/public/SB777.pdf, and humane societies around the state are urging residents to ask their local senators and representatives to support the bill.