With the recent passage of its felony animal cruelty law, Arkansas has shed its dubious distinction as one of only five states—including Idaho, Mississippi, and the Dakotas—still treating heinous acts of animal abuse as mere misdemeanors.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel worked with sponsors Sen. Sue Madison and Rep. Pam Adcock and other supporters to achieve this victory. He recalls, “For years, advocates on both sides of this issue have clashed during each legislative session. I felt that we were far past due in needing [a first offense felony animal cruelty law.]”
The new law isn’t perfect. After years of obstruction by farm interests, passage was achieved only by limiting coverage of the felony provision to dogs, cats and horses. However, the law makes the torture of a dog, cat or horse a felony and adds enhanced penalties if that torture is committed in front of a child. It also steps the charge up to a felony for a fourth misdemeanor offense, requires psychological counseling for abusers, and outlaws all animal fighting.
Kay Simpson Jordan, director of the Pulaski County Humane Society, spent 16 years trying to get Arkansas’s law to take animal cruelty crimes seriously. She is “thrilled” by the impact the law is having, even before its effective date this July. Recent court cases have resulted in significant jail time, large fines and other penalties. According to Jordan, “Those who have wanted to take strong action know that the law is now on their side, and everyone is starting to pay more attention.”