Governor Doug Ducey vetoed a bill that opponents say would have significantly weakened the state's animal-cruelty laws.
After much outcry from many animal-rights groups and their supporters, Ducey vetoed House Bill 2150 on Monday, Ducey's first veto in office.
"I know we all agree that animal cruelty is inexcusable, unacceptable, and absolutely will not be tolerated in the state of Arizona," Ducey says in a veto letter. "No animal should be the victim of abuse. Moreover, perpetrators must be held to account and properly penalized to the fullest extent of the law."
The bill, which was backed by agricultural interests, made cruelty to livestock or poultry a separate offense from cruelty to any other animals, and created different protections for those farm animals, compared to other animals.
"While the sponsors and supporters of this bill are well-intentioned, when changing state laws relating to the safety and well-being of animals, we must ensure that all animals are protected, and mindful that increasing protections for one class of animals does not inadvertently undercut protections for another," Ducey said in his letter.
The governor also said that he's open to working with the bill's sponsors "on this issue" in the future, so long as animals are protected.
The bill was passed by lawmakers last week, despite objections from the Legislature's two biggest animal-welfare supporters, Republican Senator John Kavanagh and Democratic Senator Steve Farley.
"If the public sees the agricultural community as trying to get themselves out of animal-cruelty statutes, they're going to ask themselves, 'What are they hiding?'" Farley said last week. "Most farmers, most agricultural people, are treating their animals well. And if that is the case, which I believe it is, why would you need to exempt yourself from animal-cruelty statutes?"
Kavanagh, a former cop, noted that it's fishy that the bill requires any investigations of livestock abuse to be brought to the attention of the state's agriculture department.
"[HB] 2150 requires police officers who are investigating livestock abuse to notify civilians in the Department of Agriculture, thereby potentially compromising ongoing investigations -- or should I say, investigations that never get started," Kavanagh said. "No other area of law enforcement requires such an outside notification."
Groups like the Humane Society made a big push last week for supporters to call on Ducey to veto this legislation, and it apparently worked.
"We thank Governor Ducey for standing up for animal welfare and for common sense," says Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle. "Arizonans know that all animals, [including] those used for food, deserve to be protected from cruelty."
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