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Controversial livestock cruelty bill debated at capitol

PHOENIX – A proposed piece of legislation would separate livestock from other animals under cruelty laws.

House Bill 2587 would drop the option to charge someone with a felony and make the Arizona Department of Agriculture the sole investigator of complaints, which would mean no more involvement from county or local law enforcement agencies. It would also ban counties, cities and towns from enacting an ordinance that is tougher than state law.

Supporters include the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association and the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation while opponents include the Arizona Humane Society and the ACLU of Arizona.

Critics are especially concerned with a provision they say is aimed at stopping whistleblowers and journalists from exposing wrongdoing. The bill would require anyone with photos, videos or other evidence of mistreatment to turn it over to the Department of Agriculture within five days. Supporters say it will better protect animals by sparking faster investigations.

Separate from the livestock cruelty provisions, the bill would also add hoarding to the acts classified as cruelty to animals and increase penalties for repeat offenders.