House Passes Bipartisan Bill To Imprison Pet Owners Too Poor For The Vet

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In a rare showing of bipartisan unity, about half of House Republicans joined nearly all House Democrats in passing a Senate bill imprisoning pet owners should they fail to secure a certain standard of medical treatment for their pets. Critics say the bill will disproportionately impact those too poor to afford certain vet bills.

Senate Bill 1047, sponsored by Republican Senator TJ Shope, issues animal cruelty changes to pet owners who “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly fail to provide medical attention necessary to prevent unreasonable suffering to their animals.”

Should a pet owner violate that requirement, they would be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor. That entails a sentence of up to six months in prison.

When the bill was introduced originally, this medical care provision wasn’t part of it.

The bill came to be in the wake of the infamous “Chandler House of Horrors” case involving serial animal abuser April McLaughlin. Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell supported the animal cruelty bill as originally written, citing McLaughlin’s crimes.

“Anytime 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,” said Mitchell. “So it’s not just ‘water,’ it’s ‘water that’s fit for consumption,’ as an example, so we’re removing the ambiguity.”

Initially, the bill only made the effort to further define prior statutory requirements for “necessary food, water, or shelter” that pet owners were obligated to provide.

As initially written, the bill only issued the additional stipulations that food be given daily, species-appropriate, and fit for consumption; water be suitable for drinking; and shelter access for all dogs excepting those that reside primarily outdoors. For the latter, outdoor-residing dogs had to be given shelter that has a natural or artificial cover accessible throughout the year; sound structure; a constant state of good repair and maintenance that minimizes disease, infestation, and parasite risk; and enough room to stand, turn around, lie down naturally, and maintain a normal body temperature.

One of the lawmakers to vote against the bill, Representative Alexander Kolodin, characterized the legislation as a criminalization of the poor. The lawmaker characterized the medical treatment provision as both “cruel and insane.”

Kolodin further told the Arizona Daily Independent that the near-unanimous Democratic support proved that his counterparts were also entirely unprincipled.

“The bill is like the cruelest thing I’ve ever read in my entire life. The Democrats really have no principles at all,” said Kolodin.

Among others to be in opposition to the bill were the ACLU of Arizona and Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

Similar to Kolodin, a representative with Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice pointed out during last month’s House committee hearing on the bill that the homeless and poor would be criminalized for not securing certain medical care for their pets.

Shope has disputed that the medical care amendment to his bill criminalizes the poor. The senator indicated during last month’s committee hearing that those unable to afford medical care for their pets should secure assistance from animal rights organizations. Shope didn’t elaborate on what those pet owners could do to avoid criminal charges should they be denied medical treatment or coverage for the full cost of care.

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17 Comments

  1. This is what we’re prioritizing instead of rampant retail theft, vagrants taking over public spaces, illegals flooding into the state and open drug users on every corner?? I love the critters but when kids are dying, sorry I just can’t see how this matters

  2. I read this senate bill 1047 being taken back by the headline. It seems the author(s) perhaps would like to build opposition to the proposed legislation. Perhaps not. Since we are mostly still a compassionate society and want to support pet ownership our inclination may be to say hands off especially after reading just the headline. This bill appears to take into account the portion of our society who act with malice against animals, those who act with contempt, disregard and neglect. Let’s face it there are always stories of gross neglect and violence against animals that make it into the news cycles. And most animal lovers see daily examples of human stupidity which puts domestic animals in at risk situations. Whether someone is rich or poor decision making is part of everyday life. Why shouldn’t there be protections and lawful consequences put in place to protect domestic animals from the dangers of poor decisions and people who make bad choices. IMO the bill as written appears to address long overdue and much needed animal protections from cruelty, neglect, violence and installs consequences.

    • I read it too. It may be filled with good intentions, but how will it be enforced? It is overly broad. An owner could be stuck choosing between extraordinary vet bills or extraordinary legal bills, or both. As usual, law-makers are using a net when a fishing pole would suffice.

  3. So, if the vet recommends a heart transplant and you refuse, they will call law enforcement?

    • Right? If the dog gets hit by a car and you don’t have 20K for vet and hospital bills, you can go to jail?

    • I have a female German Shrogetd that the vet thinks has cancer. I’ve already shelled out almost $2000 on just for testing alone. Nothing major came back from those tests now they want me to spend more than $4k on making and testing. I’m not made of money and no way I can afford that. Would that make me a poor pet owner?

  4. If they really cared for the animals,they should pass a law that forces veterinarians to provide Healthcare to animals whose owners can’t afford to pay, or fall below the poverty line!

    • Or at least try to lower pet care costs. Most of the time pet owners foot high bills and can’t even get a tax deduction. $1500 for an ultrasound $1700 for X-rays full cost on meds. Pets are part oof the family. I know mine are my children since I don’t have human children. Soon I am going to have to make a life or death choice fore mine because I’m not going to be able to afford the treatments which will mean euthanizing her.

  5. Which “medical attention”? What defines “unreasonable suffering”? If a dog is diagnosed with cancer and I refuse to spend thousands of dollars on a treatment that will extend her life, miserably, a few months, am I liable? Who monitors this? Veterinarians are obligated to report unlicensed animals now. BTW, my dog has to have a quarterly allergy shot. It has gone from $90 to $140 per shot in the last year. Same drug.

  6. I hate to say this but as a pet owner and definitely not the wealthiest person I hope Hobbs vetos this one. To imprison someone who can’t afford high pet bills and yes I am going through this now with a sick dog, is just working and shows a lack of compassion

  7. to poor to vet = Street people with dogs – that are only kept to have a ‘stay out of jail free card’ – the popo does not want to deal with the dog in an arrest – so they don’t arrest = get out of jail free card ; thus street smart people have dogs to protect them from the law to keep them on the street drugging and criminalizing. End of story… lets see what happens – what will the next evolution of playing the dog card become.

  8. Imprisoned for not providing knee replacement surgery? Where does one draw the line?

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