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Republican, Democrat push several bills on animal rights

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PHOENIX – Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, wants to ban ownership of animals by people convicted of animal cruelty. Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, wants to create an animal abuser registry to keep track of those convicted of animal abuse.

In all, the two lawmakers have introduced five bills aiming to protect animals, a list ranging from banning live animals as carnival prizes (Kavanagh) to adding animal fighting to offenses covered by Arizona’s racketeering law (Farley).

“It’s in everyone’s self interest to stop animal cruelty where it begins,” Farley said.

Kavanagh said protecting animals is an issue Republicans and Democrats can agree on.

“As long as a regulation isn’t overbearing and excessive, Republicans are just as likely to support it as Democrats,” he said.

Kari Nienstedt, Arizona director for the Humane Society of the United States, an animal rights group, said this legislative session has more bills advocating for animals, an issue that crosses party lines.

“This is something everyone has a stake in,” she said. “Everyone loves their animals.”

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said that increased interest in animal rights in Arizona and elsewhere can be attributed to the rise of information available. He used the cable channel Animal Planet and the documentary “Blackfish,” a critical look at Sea World’s killer whales, as examples.

In honor of their legislation, the Humane Society of the United States presented Kavanagh and Farley with “Humane Legislator” awards in early February.

HB 2022, authored by Kavanagh, would prohibit convicted animal abusers from adopting, fostering, owning or otherwise having custody of any animal. A violation would be a misdemeanor.

A constituent in his district came to Kavanagh, telling him that animal abusers could still own pets.

“Since you certainly wouldn’t allow a child abuser to stay around children, it seemed reasonable to also ban the possession of animals by people convicted of animal abuse,” he said.

The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee but had yet to receive a hearing.

Kavanagh’s HB 2242 would expand the definition of commercial dog breeders to those who breed more than 20 animals in their homes. Commercial breeders are required to have dogs and cats examined by veterinarians to prevent the sale of sick animals.

Kavanagh said the change would reduce the chances of families bonding with pets only to see them become ill and die.

That bill received a unanimous endorsement from the House Agriculture and Water Committee and was awaiting action by the full House.

For the second straight year, Kavanagh is seeking to ban live animals such as goldfish, turtles and rabbits as carnival prizes. He said his wife, Fountain Hills Mayor Linda Kavanagh, received many complaints about the practice after a fair visited town.

HB 2020 had yet to receive a hearing from the House Judiciary Committee.

Farley’s SB 1037 would create an animal abuser registry akin to Arizona’s sex offender registry, something he said would help shelters and pet stores prevent abusers from adopting or buying animals.

Farley said studies show that people who abuse animals are likely to later take their violence out on humans.

SB 1036, authored by Farley, would add animal fighting to the list of crimes covered by Arizona’s racketeering law, creating tougher penalties.

While neither bill has been heard in committee – Farley wasn’t optimistic that they would be – he said lawmakers should support such laws.

“Our animals are important for people who care about them, and they’re also very vulnerable,” he said. “It’s our duty to protect them.”