Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thrown a bone

Gerard Matthews 

When the General Assembly passed a law earlier this year to make acts of aggravated animal cruelty a felony in Arkansas, Kay Simpson, director of the Humane Society of Pulaski County, cried.

The legislative action brought to an end a long-running battle between animal rights groups and farming interests. Those who neglected or intentionally harmed animals would now suffer stiffer penalties and the threat of felony charges would be a deterrent. It was a happy day for those, like Simpson, who had fought so long to protect animals from abuse.

The bill passed easily, though similar versions had failed in previous sessions. Enforcing it, however, may prove to be more difficult.

The law goes into effect July 31, 90 days after the end of the legislative session.

One major problem will be finding space to house animals seized in abuse cases or puppy mill raids.

“I'm not doing any abuse cases right now because we're just tapped out,” Simpson said in an interview. “We get the calls from different counties all over the state. When there's a cruelty case, we're the ones that house the animals. And that's the same thing that's going to happen after the law goes into effect. Sheriff's departments don't have any room to take them. They don't have the funding to pay for the feed, the medical care, anything.”..  More