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Understanding Arizona’s Animal Protection Laws

July 9, 2021

Animal protection laws in Arizona are complex, because you are subject to state, county, and city codes, which vary in different parts of the state. Pima County has strict animal welfare laws that residents of Tucson and the surrounding areas should familiarize themselves with. Additionally, Pima County is home to one of only two animal welfare courts in the nation. This court focuses exclusively on crimes involving animals and takes its role in protecting the animals of Pima County very seriously. So, it’s important to have an experienced defense attorney at your side when facing any charges related to animal welfare. Here is a closer look at what you need to know about Arizona animal protection laws. 

Arizona Animal Protection Laws

At the state level, animal protection laws in Arizona are focused on protecting animals from intentional harm. It is illegal in Arizona to subject animals to physical harm, neglect, cruel mistreatment, or abandonment. It is also illegal to withhold medical treatment for an injured animal or to leave animals in a motor vehicle in circumstances in which harm is likely to occur, such as heat-related illnesses or injuries. These violations are illegal whether they are performed knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly, so accidental transgressions are still punishable. 

At the state level, it is also illegal to interfere with, harm, or kill a service animal or to allow another animal to do so. The laws also address property owners’ responsibilities for protecting animals, such as using signage in any area in which poison is being used to target rodents and predatory pests, so that pet owners know it is dangerous for their animals to enter those areas. Laws also address hunting and taking wildlife from their natural habitat. 

The penalties for these crimes vary depending on several factors, including the type of violation, the age of the accused, and whether the accused has a prior record of animal-related crimes. Generally, charges range from Class 2 to Class 6 felonies. 

Pima County and Tucson Animal Protection Laws

Within Pima County and the City of Tucson, animal protection laws overlap. In addition to following the state animal protection laws, citizens in these areas must follow local and county ordinances. Tucson and Pima County have their own laws that protect animals from neglect, cruelty, and physical harm. The laws require that animals have adequate, clean food and water, ample space to exercise, and access to clean and safe shelter. Animals must also receive medical care for injuries, parasites, and other conditions that cause suffering. 

A significant difference between Arizona state laws and Pima County and the City of Tucson is that tie outs are illegal. It is a violation of both Pima County and Tucson ordinances to keep an animal confined with a tie out. The only exception to this rule is temporary tethering of horses. Tie Outs have a reputation for causing significant distress in animals and encouraging aggression. Additionally, tie outs leave animals vulnerable to injury and unable to protect themselves. 

Pima County Animal Welfare Court

If you are accused of violating an animal protection law, your case may be referred to the animal welfare court in Pima County. This court works collaboratively with animal welfare experts, legal representatives, and state game and wildlife officers to develop treatment plans for people who have been accused of serious transgressions against animals. 

Typically, people who are referred to the court have been charged with misdemeanor crimes against animals. Additionally, people who have been charged with animal-related offenses multiple times are likely to be referred to this court. Depending on the nature of the offense, the court will create a treatment plan for the defendant to address issues that may contribute to their crimes against animals, to reduce the chances of recidivism. The court is a problem-solving court that focuses on rehabilitation and treatment rather than simple punitive action. In some cases, defendants may be able to avoid jail time by following a treatment program and/or supervised probation program prescribed by the court. 

In Arizona, animal-related crimes lead to serious consequences, so if you are accused, you need a defense attorney by your side at every step. Janet Altschuler is one of the only attorneys in the state who practices in the Pima County Animal Welfare Court and assists in cases related to everything from dog bites and hunting violations to moving wildlife illegally. When your freedom is on the line, let Janet Altschuler fight for your rights and help you get the best outcome for your case. To set up a consultation with our Tucson criminal defense attorney, please call (520) 247-1789.

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