Animal cruelty bill introduced to Legislature following Chandler ‘house of horrors’

Jan 17, 2024, 4:35 AM | Updated: 6:37 am

side by side image of workers from Arizona Humane Society and a puppy....

April McLaughlin, 48, has been arrested multiple times since the September 2023 raid. (Arizona Humane Society, AP File photos)

(Arizona Humane Society, AP File photos)

PHOENIX – State Sen. T.J. Shope introduced an animal cruelty bill this week in partnership with the Arizona Humane Society.

AHS President and CEO Dr. Steven Hansen called this legislation a critical step forward in fortifying the state’s animal cruelty laws.

“Senate bill 1047 specifically defines cruelty to companion animals as failure to provide necessary medical attention, defines food and water as fit for consumption and ensures shelter is safe and provides protection during extreme weather conditions,” Hansen said.

The proposed language better defines animal suffering as unreasonable, he added.

Why lawmakers announced new animal cruelty bill

Chandler police seized nearly 55 dogs from 48-year-old April McLaughlin’s home four months ago.

“It’s one of the most horrific cases of animal cruelty that I’ve personally ever seen,” Hansen said.

If this animal cruelty bill would have been law in September, Chandler PD would have been able to obtain a search warrant of McLaughlin’s home sooner, Hansen said.

AHS has been working with law enforcement over the last four months to bring charges against McLaughlin.

“She is now facing a 24-count indictment that includes eight felony charges and 16 class 1 misdemeanors,” Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said last week. “This is in addition to the 77 misdemeanors she already faces in Chandler City Court.”

How are the dogs from the Chandler ‘house of horrors’ doing?

AHS has already reunited more than 40 of the dogs with former owners and rescue groups.

“The dogs required a substantial amount of medical treatment and special assistance for mobility issues and extra love as they healed from living in such deplorable conditions,” Hansen said.

McLaughlin asked the Chandler Municipal Court in October for custody of 13 dogs police took from her home. While she awaited her hearing, the 13 dogs remained with AHS, unable to go to their forever homes.

A judge denied McLaughlin’s appeal in early January. AHS then obtained ownership of the remaining dogs, who spent one last celebration with their caretakers this week.

During the AHS event, Shope announced SB 1047. Mitchell, who also attended the event, threw her support behind the bill.

“Any time that we can further narrow the definition of words like water and food and shelter and make it more explainable, it’s going to help us be more successful in prosecution,” Mitchell said.

Her office worked hard to bring felony charges against McLaughlin under the current law thanks to substantial veterinary evidence from AHS, she added.

The proposed bill came in the wake of AHS seeing a 21% increase in animal abuse calls last year. It opened nearly 10,000 investigations into animal abuse.

The rest of the dogs taken from McLaughlin’s so-called “house of horrors” will soon be sent to a rescue in southern California, Hansen said.

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Animal cruelty bill introduced to Legislature following Chandler ‘house of horrors’