Controversial bill to protect animal owners upsets advocates

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - A controversial bill aimed to protect farmers and animal owners has drawn the ire of some animal advocates who say it would thoroughly prevent cruelty cases from being investigated statewide.

If a regular citizen wanted to take a picture of what looked like a neglected horse, or any other animal that would be a crime under Senate Bill 13. It would be a misdemeanor offense for any non-law enforcement individuals to conduct an investigation into "alleged claims of criminal conduct involving an animal."

Senator Gary Stubblefield, a lifelong dairy farmer, says too often good owners are punished by false claims.

"These bills are not only to protect animals but these bills are to protect the owners of the animals," said Stubblefield (R-District 6).

He says the good intentions of passersby do more harm than good.

"To the person who's driving on through there who is not educated," he said, "they see this one cow and they accuse the owner of animal cruelty and they come in and remove all of the cattle."

Stubblefield says unfair allegations place stress on many rural Arkansas farmers who are targeted by animal activists.

Meanwhile, Jake Hillard has helped organize more than a thousand people online to fight the bill.

"It will make it impossible to prosecute any case of cruelty," she said.

As the director of Arkansans for Animals she has concerns{}that Stubblefield is not only protecting responsible animal owners but abusers too.

"I've never gotten the random drive by complaint," said Hillard. "It's not 'Oh, you didn't bathe your pet last week.' It's nothing like that. You're talking about animals that are basically at death's door and need immediate intervention."

The bill would also require a court order and two veterinarians to agree that cruelty is taking place before law enforcement could seize any animals from a property.

Senate Bill 13 is currently being amended to include broader terminology.

SB 14 would protect against undercover filming at livestock or poultry operations. {}