Animal rescue groups fight new state bill

Animal rescue groups are fired up about a new state bill they say will hurt animals who are already suffering.

The bill aims to bar local authorities from enforcing animal cruelty laws.

Instead, it gives the power to investigate animal abuse claims on farms to the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

Rescue groups say it's already hard enough to report animal abuse. They think these changes would make it even tougher.

Jim Gath has dedicated his life to helping horses. He owns Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary in Cave Creek. The sanctuary is home to 30 horse rescues.

Gath fights hard to get his horses back on their feet, after they're brought in to him suffering from abuse and neglect.

Now he's found another fight as House Bill 2587 moves forward in the state legislature. The bill was introduced by Republican state representative Brenda Barton.

Gath says law enforcement is doing the best they can when it comes to investigating claims of animal abuse involving livestock.

He worries this change would sweep animal abuse cases under the rug. He believes the Arizona Department of Agriculture doesn't have the investigators or resources to handle the number of cases out there.

"I'm kind of thinking this is called the deadbeat bill. Because deadbeats are the ones who are going to be the ones who get along. And the people that want to do the right thing for horses are the ones that are being punished on this," Gath said.

The bill also states any photos or video taken of animal abuse have to be handed over to the Department of Agriculture within five days.

Animal rescue groups fear that would silence whistle blowers. They feel that evidence should be turned in to police, and five days is not enough time.

In the end, Gath fears it means he won't be able to help the animals out there who need it the most.

"The only spirits on Mother Earth that are going to suffer are the animals, you know? And they're already suffering," he said.

Lawmakers who sponsored the bill say they're trying to protect animals. They point to a number of other measures within the bill that they say do just that.

Officials say they're making some changes to the bill's wording, so we could see an amended bill later this week.

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