Republican Sen. John Kavanagh, one of the Humane Society of the United States 2014 Humane Lawmakers of the Year, is continuing his push this year to protect animals in Arizona.
Kavanagh’s first piece of animal-related legislation came in 2013 after his wife, Fountain Hills Mayor Linda Kavanagh, received multiple calls regarding a carnival giving away turtles and rabbits as prizes. After hearing that the kids brought home the animals with no means to care for them, Kavanagh ran HB2072 that year. The bill, which failed in committee, would have made it a misdemeanor for carnival operators to give away live animals as prizes.
With that, Kavanagh began his involvement with animal rights legislation.
Also during the 2013 session, Kavanagh proposed another bill, HB2073, which would have prohibited “a person who is convicted of certain animal cruelty related crimes” from “adopting, owning or otherwise having care or custody of any animal.”
He based the bill off of the 2007 case regarding quarterback Michael Vick. Vick ran a dog-fighting ring, beating and, in a few cases, killing more than 50 pit bulls. After being convicted and spending time in prison, Vick was able to obtain another dog.
“They don’t let child molesters foster parents … it didn’t make much sense to put animals back in the home of someone who’s been criminally convicted of abusing them.” Kavanagh said.
The bill was ultimately held in the Senate after clearing the House that year, based partly on concerns regarding the phrasing of the law and its implications for families involved in agriculture. Kavanagh tried it again in 2014 as HB2022, where it failed. Undaunted, Kavanagh is trying again with his bill prohibiting convicted animal abusers from owning animals, known this year as SB1050.
Another advocate for animal rights legislation, Democratic Sen. Steve Farley of Tucson, supports Kavanagh’s bill and is adding his own animal protection proposals to the mix.
Farley, who also received the 2014 Humane Lawmaker of the Year award, plans to work with Kavanagh this session to pass legislation to help tighten up restrictions on animal abuse. To this end, Farley introduced SB1105, which expands the definition of racketeering in Arizona law to include “animal fighting and cockfighting.”
“I believe [animals] are vulnerable and that they provide a great deal for us and we deserve to protect them from some of the problematic elements in society,” Farley said. “And when you put that together with the clear connection between animal abuse and later human violence, it’s important for us to get on top of this stuff early so it doesn’t come back and bite us in other ways.”
Farley is also planning to introduce a bill this session that would create a registry of convicted animal abusers that is easily accessible to the public. The registry would enable pet store and kennel owners to see if someone is on a can-not-possess-animals list or if they’ve been convicted of any sort of animal abuse. He intends for his registry bill to work in conjunction with Kavanagh’s animal protection measure.
Beyond their proposals, Kavanagh and Farley have also worked together to stop legislation they view as bad for animals.
“We were pretty successful to stop a bad bill last year. There was a bill that was trying to move the animal abuse statutes into agriculture title and it was really problematic,” Farley said. “Kate Brophy McGee was working on that and John and I were very opposed to it and worked with animal advocates to stop that.”
Kavanagh said his constituents help drive the types of legislation he proposes. And he’s firmly dedicated to the issue of protecting pets.
“A lot of my legislation is inspired by things I read in the paper or thing constituents bring to my attention,” Kavanagh said. “So to the extent that these things continue, I’ll continue.”