Until now, animal cruelty in Arkansas had just been a misdemeanor, punishable by a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, but that has quickly changed.
Arkansas was one of the few states left in the U.S. that had no felony animal cruelty laws, but the state quickly moved to pass legislation that would make animal cruelty a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A second offense within five years would be a Class C felony, punishable by between three and 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
From puppy mills to chained dogs and kitten killings, cases of animal cruelty have not been uncommon in the state, and now both citizens and lawmakers want to put a stop to it.
The bill is also being backed by the Arkansas Farm Bureau, who had opposed it in the past because they felt that it wasn’t defined well enough. The new bill provides more specific definitions of cruel and inhumane treatment, and will also give law enforcement officers the power to make arrests.
The bill will also make cock-fighting illegal and will create a system for punishing subsequent misdemeanor offenses.
While misdemeanor charges are a good start in animal abuse cases, they don’t carry enough weight to deter individuals from committing crimes again. They offer virtually no follow up, and don’t provide violators with the necessary counseling they may need, as was the case with the Humane Society’s crack down on Every Dog Needs a Home in Arkansas, an animal hoarding case in 2006.
Cases of animal abuse are on the rise. It’s truly unfortunate that there are people who lack empathy and compassion for our fellow creatures. Let’s hope the last few states catch up with everybody else soon.
For information about where your state stands on animal protection, visit the Humane Society’s state legislation page here.