Changes In Store For Animal Cruelty Laws?

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- Arkansas is one of only a handful of states where animal cruelty is still a misdemeanor, but if Arkansas Attorney General, Dustin McDaniel, has his way, that will soon change.

"We are going to make cockfighting a felony. We are going to have staggered sentences for misdemeanor offenses. We will have, for the first time, felony animal cruelty provisions for extreme animal cruelty against dogs, cats and horses," said McDaniel.

Efforts to change the laws have been made in the past, but McDaniel says past concerns have had unintended consequences.

"People have been worried that if you brand a calf or slaughter a pig,  or shoot one duck over the limit, or put down a sick animal, are you at any risk of prosecution?  That's what stood in the way of bills in the past," said McDaniel.

McDaniel was not alone crafting this proposal. In addition to animal rights groups, he sought the advice of police and farm groups. McDaniel says they have worked diligently to create a proposal with clear definitions and clear exemptions.

"We need a felony cruelty bill, I truly believe we do," said NAFA's Wannda Turner.

NAFA's Wannda Turner says she doesn't think this is right for Arkansas, or its animals.

"Both as an abuse investigator, as an animal lover, as someone that does this in the trenches, I can tell you that the current legislation that is going to be proposed guts everything that protects animals and the citizens," said Turner.

Turners says the bill is too vague and still leaves too many animals unprotected.

"I believe if passed, it will be the worst thing that happens to Arkansas," said Turner.