Proposed bills prohibit animal cruelty investigations by non-law enforcement

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Lawmakers are considering two bills that would prohibit anyone who is not law enforcement from investigating animal abuse and neglect cases.

Several animal advocates have spoken against Senate Bill 13 and Senate Bill 14.

"If they're chained to a tree and starved to death we would not have the right to help them. We could report it to the police but we could not take a photo or anything," said Blytheville Humane Society Secretary Lisa Childers.

Childers and BHS President Pam Ford believe the measures would take away the rights of Arkansas animal welfare organizations and animal advocates.

"That's why we put it on our Facebook page and asked people to contact Senator Stubblefield and any other senators," said Ford.

Republican Senator Gary Stubblefield of Branch proposed the two bills.

The purpose of SB13 is to provide "legal protection to animal owners and their animals; to ensure that only law enforcement agencies investigate charges of animal cruelty." Under the bill, animal owners could not be seized unless a warrant has been issued.   In addition, the perpetrator of an "improper animal investigation" or an investigation conducted by someone other than a law enforcement officer, could face fines of $5,000 per incident and the "loss of any state-issued license to operate."

The term "investigation" includes collecting evidence or forcing a person to surrender an animal.

SB14 prohibits "interference with at livestock or poultry operation."  The interference includes recording images or sounds and using them to "harm" the operation.

Pet owner Russell Page also believes humane societies and animal welfare organizations should have a hand in protecting animals, but understands the need for those most familiar with animal rights to take the lead.

"If you put it all in law enforcement's hands, it's going to bog them down even more than they already are," he said. "I don't think I would have a problem with (someone other than a member of an animal welfare organization doing a welfare check), but if they really think something is going on, then they should call a vet or somebody that can get a hold of somebody that can actually go and do a proper welfare check," he said.

Childers and Ford stress their efforts and the efforts of other Arkansas animal advocates respects animals and people.

"I don't believe in climbing fences, knocking down doors. I believe in going through the proper legal channels," said Childers.

"The most we would do, and Lisa has done this before, is just go up and knock on the door and say, 'Hey. We got a report that you've got your dog on a chain in the backyard with no house," said Ford.  "I think people appreciate you checking on animals to be sure they're okay unless they've got something to hide."

Click on the links to read SB13 and SB14.

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