House Bill 2150 gets gubernatorial veto

Gov. Ducey vetoed a bill that would have done major damage to the state’s cattle, among others

Isabel Menzel, Reporter

House Bill 2150 inspired 19,000 emails, calls and letters to Arizona’s Governor, only three of which were in its support.

On March 30, Gov. Doug Ducey announced his first veto in response to a bill that his own Republican party had passed.  The bill, which was supported by the Arizona Farm Bureau and pushed by agriculture lobbyists, would further divide the rights of farm animals, including horses, with that of other animals in the state.

HB 2150 was met with public outcry because it would omit the crime of abandonment of farm animals and would prevent cities in Arizona from enacting tougher laws against livestock cruelty.  In addition, it would require that any animal cruelty tip-offs were to be reported to the department of agriculture.  This regulation could complicate and delay animal welfare investigations for law officers and would also give the investigations a one-sided approach.

“The biggest change I would have liked to see would be separating the welfare of pets to that of livestock, and ensuring that if there were ever any issues on a farmer’s ranch that the department of agriculture would have an opportunity to provide their expertise in that situation,” Ana Kennedy, the government relations manager for the Arizona Farm Bureau, said.

Another troublesome detail of House Bill 2150 is that it would have reduced the penalties of farm animal abusers. Under the bill, a first-time offender that abused live-stock, would only be charged with a class one misdemeanor, where the punishment would likely only consist of probation or community service as oppose to incarceration. To be charged with a class six felony, the abuser would need to be reported several times, an unlikely situation.

The Arizona Farm Bureau described the bill as a step in the right direction for pets, arguing that when a division between pets and farm animals is made, it would allow for harsher penalties for individuals that hoard cats and dogs, such as in the case of puppy-mills.  To hoard a cat or dog is not met with a heavy punishment by law because pets are protected by the same laws as farm animals, and to keep a farm animal in confined or overcrowded space is deemed acceptable.  To highlight this side of the bill was a crafty approach by the Arizona Farm Bureau, as it cloaks the bill as something that would benefit the overall welfare of pets, while underhandedly it robbed the rights of farm animals.

“This bill would have addressed hoarding,” Kennedy said. “Hoarding has to do with when you have large numbers of animals, and when you start looking at this kind of issue, where else are you going to see a large number of animals together? On a farm.  So that was another reason why we wanted to separate the livestock from the pets.  We still deal with cruelty as it applies to livestock, but this bill would have allowed us to continue to move forward to deal with issues related to dogs and cats.”

Although the bill would not have affected consumers directly, thousands on Arizona citizens who were concerned for the welfare of farm animals fought diligently to prevent the bill from passing, and the governor agreed with their call to action.

“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 of veto.

Paul Shapiro, the vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society in the United States helped combat the bill.

“The Humane Society of the US worked with the Arizona humane society to fight the bill,” Shapiro said. We were working with the Arizona Republic, which ended up editorializing against the bill and pushing for a veto. Animal cruelty is not an exception in the meat industry, it is the norm, and the meat industry wants people to be kept in the dark.