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Arkansas Felony Animal Cruelty, Cockfighting Laws

New laws crack down on animal abuse and cockfights

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Arkansas has become the 46th state to make animal abuse a felony. iStockphoto

The Humane Society of the United States, the country's largest animal protection organization, applauds Arkansas for becoming the 46th state to make cruelty to animals a felony offense. At a signing ceremony today, Gov. Mike Beebe signed the landmark legislation into law. 

The HSUS, which has more than 56,000 members and supporters in Arkansas, was represented at the ceremony by its Arkansas State Director Desiree Bender, who praised the bill and its champions: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Sen. Sue Madison and Rep. Pam Adcock.

"This is an historic day for animals, not only in Arkansas but in the entire United States," Bender said. "Yesterday, there were five states where criminals could intentionally torture a companion animal and not face meaningful penalties. Today, thanks to Governor Beebe, Attorney General McDaniel, Senator Madison, Representative Adcock, and other compassionate legislators, Arkansas has distanced itself from that list with a law that we are proud to have helped shape."

The HSUS also praised provisions in the bill that make cockfighting a felony offense, and create escalating penalties for lesser cruelty offenses, such as neglect, which were elevated to a felony level crime on the fourth offense. 

In preparation for the bill's enactment, McDaniel announced $250,000 in funding to the University of Arkansas' Criminal Justice Institute to work with The HSUS to develop and implement training for Arkansas law enforcement officers. The HSUS looks forward to working with McDaniel, his staff and the Criminal Justice Institute to train officers in interpreting and administering the state's new animal cruelty statutes.

Animal Cruelty Facts

  • Forty-six states, plus Washington D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico now have felony animal cruelty laws.  
  • Remaining states lacking animal cruelty felony provisions are Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota.
  • State legislatures in Idaho, Mississippi and South Dakota are considering felony animal cruelty legislation in their current legislative sessions.
  • Animal cruelty is linked to violence against humans. Violent criminals frequently have histories of serious and repeated animal cruelty. The FBI has recognized the connection since the 1970s, when its analysis of the lives of serial killers suggested that most had killed or tortured animals as children.

    Cockfighting Facts

  • Thirty-eight states, plus Washington D.C., now have felony cockfighting laws.
  • Remaining states lacking felony cockfighting laws are Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio, South Carolina, Kansas, Hawaii, Utah, South Dakota, Idaho, Mississippi and Alabama. 
  • State legislatures in at least eight of those 12 states are considering felony cockfighting legislation in their current legislative sessions.
  • Cockfighting is linked to illegal gambling, narcotics sales, gang membership and other crimes.
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