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Helping Farm Dogs or a Loophole for Cruelty?
The story behind Arizona’s HB 2780
Photo from the June 6 ranch raid by Pima County animal control.

Early this month, legislation exempting ranch dogs from animal cruelty laws passed easily through the Arizona legislature. Despite opposition from the Arizona Defense League for Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, county officials, media, animal shelters across the state and a large number of citizens, Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law almost as soon as it crossed her desk. The bill, known as HB 2780, has a history as sordid as its content.

On June 6, 2011 Pima County animal control officers responded to a cruelty investigation on a remote ranch. Neighbors hadn’t been seen the owner since May 31, 2011. Despite the county’s anti-tethering law, three dogs were restrained by tie-outs. Two others were inside a filthy horse trailer. Food was not available. Investigating officers described the water as “green with algae that you could not see into it.” The water smelled foul. Dogs had little or no protection from the sun. Officers recorded the outdoor temperature at 93 degrees.

More scenes for the raid: skinny dogs and slimy water.

Obviously irate about the citations, the rancher approached Rep. Peggy Judd (R-Wilcox) who represents the district and asked her to support a state law exempting farmers and ranchers from Pima County’s anti-tethering legislation. When he talked to Judd he failed to mention his citations for animal neglect.

Not satisfied with merely amending Pima County’s anti-tethering law, the unidentified rancher pushed for a statewide exemption, enlisting the Arizona Cattleman’s Association, a powerful lobbying group. Patrick Bray, the association’s president, wasted no time urging Judd to pass HB 2780. Bray says dozens of Pima County ranchers complained about the anti-tethering law because ranchers may have to tie their dogs for safety reasons when rounding up cattle. However, there are no records of such complaints. The anti-tethering law has been in effect since at least 1997 but neither Judd nor Bray could explain on why it is so urgent now to pass legislation that exempts farm dogs statewide from local anti-tethering ordinances.

While Judd admits there wasn’t full disclosure about the case, she says, “I would have still pursued this law because of the knowledge of the necessity of tying working dogs in some situations on ranches and farms.” Judd, who was HB 2780’s main sponsor, grew up on a ranch in Arizona.

HB 2780, which was later amended in the legislature, prohibits local government from enforcing anti-tethering legislation against farmers and ranchers if “the activity is directly related to the business of shepherding livestock and the activity is necessary for the safety of a human, the dog, or livestock or is permitted by or pursuant to Title 3.”  Title 3 is Arizona’s Agricultural Code that governs farm and ranch activity. The cattle industry already has numerous exemptions under state animal cruelty laws.

HB 2780 seems like it was misrepresented to lawmakers. Only Pima County has anti-tethering legislation. If there were no complaints about the law, then why change it other than to appease a disgruntled rancher? Judd, however, says she is proud of the bill. Ranchers she says “should be free of threat and that makes me as happy as anyone.”

Karen Michael of Arizona Defense League for Animals says HB 2780 is unnecessary, overly broad and preempts local animal cruelty laws. “It also sets a dangerous precedent by creating exemptions under local laws for special interest groups,” she says. Kathleen Mayer, legislative liaison for Barbara LaWall, Pima County Attorney, agrees that this bill was tailored for one person.

The case against the rancher is still pending in Pima County.

Debra J. White is an award winning freelance writer in Tempe. She serves on the board of the Phoenix Animal Care Coalition, volunteers with the Arizona Animal Welfare League and the Sierra Club and at Sky Harbor Airport. She lives with two rescued dogs.

Photos by investigators for Pima County Animal Care Center.

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Sarah Mosk | April 26 2012 |

Thanks to Debra J. White and Bark Magazine for exposing this damaging bill passed by the Arizona Legislature and signed into law by the governor. It's appalling that lawmakers would pass legislation that impacts the entire state, in order to benefit a single rancher who has been charged with animal cruelty.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 26 2012 |

what's next

Submitted by Anonymous | April 28 2012 |

Perhaps it is necessary to tie the dogs occasionally but why doesn't such a bill specify that the dogs (all animals) need to be treated in a humane way; i.e. fresh water, food, shade, etc.?

Submitted by Roxane H | May 1 2012 |

Working dogs can be crated in the field,crates collaspe,easily can be packed & moved as needed.Crates have added advantages of safety the elimination of predators.They can be tarped thus allowing protection from the elements & shade.Bedding ensures comfort after a hard days work. Tethering is lazy,dangerous,often is both harsh & cruel.Often food & water is upset.Dogs are tangled in their thether. Regardless of the outcome of the pending charges or punishment this "rancher" receives the short-sighted legislators along with our irresponsible Governor creating exemptions means the pattern will continue. A neglective animal abuser will be back to business as usual. An abuser has won but his farm dogs as well as others across the state have lost. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR NEGLECT CRUELTY OR ABUSE OF ANY ANIMAL.....

Submitted by Sarah | May 1 2012 |

Peggy Judd has backed down on another bill after vigourous protest.


She needs to hear from her constituents, and people outside her district can consider donating to her opponent in the upcoming fall election. She has also voted to put Arizona further in debt. Unfortunately she has no opponent at this time.

Submitted by Anonymous | May 2 2012 |

Arizona residents: Just make sure you vote out Peggy Judd and the ignorant Governor of your state. Those two women are a disgrace! They literally make me feel like I'm going to be sick. I guess Arizona Cattleman’s Association greased their palms quite well.
How much did you get from ACA, Rep. Judd? How about you Governor? Do tell!

Submitted by Chanelle | May 2 2012 |

Shame on you! Arizona reps, legislature, govenor & ACA! Those dogs deserve respect, they work hard and for you! Shame on you! Thank God for the people that are their voice!

Submitted by Carolyn Cabot | May 3 2012 |

What is the matter with this rancher guy? Who the hell is he! VIOLATIONS MORON!He has some. What an IDIOT! No special treatment for him. JACKASS!!!!!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous | May 3 2012 |


Submitted by Anonymous | May 3 2012 |

You'd think you'd reward a job well done, not neglect and abuse. No excuses for this kind of behavior. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. They're loyal to you I'm sure, why not try the same to them.

Submitted by Carmi Rockwell | January 29 2013 |

Every person who allows a any living creature be treated like this should have to live in their place for a month and eat and drink what ever or none of what they did and this BS would stop..

Submitted by Anonymous | April 11 2013 |

If everyone would cut back on beef consumption and any other product coming out of Arizona, we would have our own power to help abused and neglected animals. Even if these ignorant ranchers have an occasional need to tether their dogs, there is no excuse for not providing them with sufficient clean food and water. What an ASS ---not just the ranchers but Arizona government, so "proud" of their bill. Let's tie the governor and her supporters out with no food and slimmy water until her bones stick out more than her inhumane attitude towards animals.

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