Best kept secret in the battle to end animal abuse by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Deborah Knaan
Attorney Deborah Knaan creator of the B.A.R.C. curriculum

I recently became reacquainted with an important program in Los Angeles.  Although, this program could be useful in every community in the United States, it appears to me to be one of the best kept secrets in the battle to mitigate animal cruelty and abuse in our communities.

I’m talking about the Benchmark Animal Rehabilitative Curriculum (B.A.R.C.).  B.A.R.C. is a unique online animal abuse prevention course designed to educate and rehabilitate individuals who have demonstrated a propensity to mistreat animals.

The B.A.R.C. course is appropriate for adults and juveniles (aged 15-17).  The course is only open to individuals referred by a member of the criminal justice system (judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, or probation officer); an animal control professional; a social services agency; an educational institution (teachers and school counselors); or a mental health professional.

B.A.R.C. uses eProktor, an advanced facial recognition technology, to authenticate and ensure that the individual referred to the course is indeed taking it.

When it comes to animal cruelty and abuse, it is important for law enforcement to be proactive, rather than just reactive.  In most communities, law enforcement lacks a tool able to help mitigate the prospect that an animal abuser will transgress again.  B.A.R.C. is that tool!

B.A.R.C. is designed to help preclude the customary escalation of animal abuse by intervening with strategies and education designed to change minds and behaviors.

Having been involved in animal welfare and animal cruelty enforcement for some 30 years, I believe the B.A.R.C. course can enhance the way our criminal justice system and animal control professionals address the mindset and beliefs that cause some people to abuse animals and participate in cruel activities, like dogfighting, cockfighting and worse.

Ed Boks and B.A.R.C.The B.A.R.C. course is a valuable tool for any professional seeking to prevent animal abuse.  The program addresses the reasons why some people mistreat animals in a way designed to change, mitigate or eliminate future cruel behavior. The B.A.R.C. course directly addresses the reasons with a solution. The B.A.R.C. course may be the essential component missing in your community’s rehabilitative plan for offenders seeming to lack empathy for animals, or possessing a propensity to harm them.

Having served as the Chief Animal Control Enforcement Agent in communities from New York City to Los Angeles, I reviewed and sent to prosecution hundreds of animal cruelty cases.  I am convinced that the majority of those defendants would have benefited mightily from B.A.R.C.

Humane education properly dispensed can be more effective, with longer-lasting results, than incarceration, fines, or community service.

Visit http://barceducation.org/ and share this information with local judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, animal control professionals, social services agencies, teachers, school counselors, and mental health professionals.  It is time we let this cat out of the bag!

For more information on life-saving programs visit: edboks.com

How do you define compassion? by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Safety NetOver the years I have come to understand compassion as a deep awareness of the suffering experienced by another – coupled with the desire to relieve it.  Compassion is more vigorous than sympathy or empathy, compassion gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering – making compassion the essential component in what manifests in our social context as altruism.

In ethical terms, the “Golden Rule” may best embody the principle of compassion: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Compassion does not simply mean caring deeply about someone else’s suffering. Compassion actually causes you to get personally involved. Compassion manifests in the face of cruelty, moving you to say out loud, “This is wrong” – and it moves you to actually do something to end the suffering.

It is not uncommon for those of us working in animal welfare to encounter cries for help from victims of domestic violence.  Domestic issues involving humans are not usually within the purview of an animal organization.  However, its not uncommon to receive a call that causes us to say out loud, “This is wrong.” These calls involve women looking to escape their desperate situations – feeling like hostages in their own homes, unable to leave because their abusers threaten to harm the family pet(s) should they attempt to do so.

Finding a safe place for these pets is prerequisite to these women getting the help they need. What can animal shelters do to help when they are already overflowing with lost and homeless animals?  By way of some rather circuitous routes, I have been able to help in some small ways – but I’ve learned it is important that animal shelters to not be caught so flat-footed when these needs come knocking at the door.  We must be able to respond better and more quickly.

Domestic violence and partner abuse is not an animal shelter problem. Domestic violence is a community problem. Abuse comes in many forms, both verbal and physical. Verbal abuse and manipulative behavior can be as destructive to the soul as violence is to the body. Women, children and pets should never be victimized or cruelly treated regardless of the situation. To do so is wrong.

Compassion is what moves us to do something about a wrong, but we are ill-equipped to do it alone. These types of complex problems need a community response that ensures victims of violence never go unheard.

That is why I developed a program called Safety Net designed to help pets stay with their families through difficult financial times, dislocations, hospitalizations, evictions, and yes, domestic turbulence.  Often families face crises that prompt abandonment of a beloved pet, even though the crisis is likely to be temporary.

When properly funded, the Safety Net program can help pet owners weather such storms by providing emergency foster placement, veterinary help, counseling and other remedies to help prevent a pet from losing its home and family because of a temporary crisis.

Sadly, we seldom have enough funds to assist people within this narrow mission. Clearly, a Safety Net program is not sufficient to meet the needs arising from domestic abuse. What is needed is a community-wide safety net – a program with financial sponsors and service and product partners. Partners able to provide human and/or pet boarding, pet grooming and supplies, veterinary services, social services and doctors are vital. We need partners who recognize that abuse and cruelty are wrong and are moved to do something to ease that suffering – rather than look the other way. Together we can create this community-wide safety net so no one has to stay in a terrible situation in order to protect a loved one.

If you are interested in creating a safety net program, or other life saving programs, in your community to help alleviate human and animal suffering, contact me at here.

What Ed Boks Consulting can mean to you!

Ed Boks in NYCThe name Ed Boks is associated with life saving programs and results.  Ed Boks has managed three of the largest animal control programs in the United States; Maricopa County, AZ, New York City and Los Angeles.  He also successfully transformed Yavapai County, AZ into the a “no-kill” community while serving as the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society.

Life saving results is the one consistent hallmark in all of Ed Boks’ assignments.  “If people want to save lives, it can be done, but it will mean hard work and sometimes upsetting the status quo, and that will draw its share of naysayers.”

But there is no denying the results.  Ed Boks’  compassionate, non-lethal programs and strategies are proven to help the greatest number of animals at risk in any community.

In communities large and small, Ed Boks “know how” reduced killing to  historic lows, while transforming animal shelters into high volume pet adoption and safety net programs.  Ed Boks effectively replaces historic “catch and kill” methodologies with a new generation of life-saving, user and animal friendly programs.  Ed Boks can do the same for your community!

For more information on how visit:  Ed Boks Services

Pets improve owners’ health and well-being By Ed Boks

Ed Boks and pet therapyDid you know that the presence of a cat or dog in a counseling office can speed the therapeutic process for some patients? Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) was introduced by psychologist Boris Levinson in the 1950s when he discovered that his dog Jingles was able to connect with autistic children in a way humans had not.

Since then, AAT has continued to develop as a therapeutic science. Although dogs are the most frequently used therapy animals, cats, birds, rabbits, horses, donkeys, llamas and even pigs and snakes participate in different programs.

According to research, when people hold and stroke an animal, many positive physical and psychological transitions occur, including lowered blood pressure, a feeling of calm, the ability to be more extroverted and verbal, decreased loneliness and increased self-esteem.

Susan Lee Bady, a clinical social worker who uses cats in her practice, says the cats serve a number of different functions, including facilitating emotional expression and touching; encouraging spontaneity and fun; and providing the kind of unconditional love seldom found in human relationships.

Bady’s patients report feelings of peacefulness and serenity when they watch cats cuddle and groom each other. This feeling is enhanced when a cat jumps into a patient’s lap. Some patients speak more freely while holding or petting a cat. Patients out of touch with their emotions are sometimes able to identify and understand their emotions by watching the behavior of the cats.

Patients with trust issues learn to trust Bady by watching her with her cats. Bady’s cats, like all pets, are independent souls. This independence and lack of predictability helps needy or insecure patients cope better with what they perceive as personal slights in everyday life. For example, when patients feel a cat doesn’t like them because he or she won’t sit in their lap, Bady uses that reaction to open a discussion about their neediness and the problems it might be creating in their lives.

There’s a plethora of literature amassed on the many different ways animals help children and adults with psychiatric illness, mood disorders, developmental and learning disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental and emotional challenges.

One study of hospitalized psychiatric patients concluded that animal-assisted therapy significantly reduced anxiety for patients with psychotic, mood and other disorders.

Another study published in the Journals of Gerontology showed that animal-assisted therapy reduced loneliness in residents of long-term care facilities – especially for those folks who previously owned pets.

A study conducted at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University concluded children with pervasive development disorders (PDD) who lack social communication abilities “exhibited a more playful mood, were more focused, and were more aware of their social environments when in the presence of a therapy dog.”

In a report titled “Animal-Assisted Therapy in Psychiatric Rehabilitation,” researchers studied the effect of AAT on a group of male and female psychiatric inpatients. By the fourth week of the study, “patients in the AAT group were significantly more interactive with other patients, scored higher on measures of smiles and pleasure, were more sociable and helpful with others and were more active and responsive to surroundings.”

Aaron Katcher, M.D., a psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, claims there is tremendous evidence for the success of animal-assisted therapy in controlled studies, such as depressed patients had increased socialization and decreased depression; children with severe ADHD and conduct disorder had decreased aggressive behavior and improved attention; patients with autism or developmental disabilities had increased socialization and improved attention; and patients with Alzheimer’s had improved attention and decreased aggression and anger.

According to Katcher, there is also clinical and anecdotal evidence that patients with dissociative disorders and agoraphobia are able to decrease anxiety and increase social skills when they have companion animals.

With all the benefits pets provide, shouldn’t you consider bringing one of these little miracle workers home today?

Compassion is not a finite commodity By Ed Boks

Ed Boks and strategic planningIn many communities, decisions regarding animal welfare are complicated by a host of competing priorities. When evaluating competing priorities it’s easy to look to the bottom line. When that happens, the questions of conscience concerning animal welfare can be overlooked.

There will always be enough injustice and human suffering in the world to make animal welfare seem less important. But compassion is not a finite commodity. We demonstrated the power of compassion in 2012 by ending euthanasia as our community’s method for controlling pet overpopulation. That is no small achievement; indeed, it places us among the nation’s most humane communities.

Still it’s not difficult to understand how decision makers can feel strongly that human need and wants are more important than animal needs and wants. When this happens, animal welfare can be reduced to a simple equation of what’s affordable, profitable or expedient. We can almost fool ourselves into thinking we’re dealing with widgets rather than lives. It’s at this point that our moral fiber emerges.

German philosopher Immanuel Kant opined that “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” Indian Prime Minister Mahatma Gandhi expanded on this truism stating the moral progress of an entire community “can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” No less than Abraham Lincoln said he considered animal welfare as important as human welfare for “that is the way of a whole human being.”

Ed Boks and Matthew Scully
Ed Boks and Matthew Scully

Matthew Scully, senior speech writer for President George W. Bush and author of the book Dominion, put it this way: “We are called upon to treat animals with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but because they don’t; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us. Animals are easily overlooked, their interests easily brushed aside.”

The danger now is that we return to thinking there is only enough compassion in our community for our elderly but not for our children; or just enough love for our children but not for our mentally ill; or just enough kindness for our human populations but not for our animals. St. Francis of Assisi taught that to regard the lives of animals as worthless is one small step away from regarding some human lives as worthless.

We compound community wrongs when wrongs done to animals are excused by saying there are more important wrongs done to humans and we must concentrate on those alone. A wrong is a wrong, and when we shrug off these little wrongs we do grave harm to ourselves and others.

“When we wince at the suffering of animals, that feeling speaks well of us… and those who dismiss love for our fellow creatures as mere sentimentality overlook a good and important part of our humanity.” (Scully: Dominion)

As 2012 comes to a close, I want to thank the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, the Prescott City Council and the Prescott Valley Town Council for their support in 2012 and ask them to kindly remember animal welfare as they begin to build their 2013/14 budgets.

If you want to live in a community where the circle of compassion includes animals, let your elected officials know how important their support of the local shelter is to you. You can also help this humane initiative directly by making a yearend donation; including your shelter in your will; joining their volunteer program; or adopting a pet from them. Together we transformed our community into a showcase for “that good and important part of our humanity.” This can continue into 2013 and beyond – but only with your help, involvement and support.

Achieving No-Kill by the numbers By Ed Boks

Ed Boks and No KillEarly in my animal welfare career I developed a “no-kill” ethic.  I trained shelter staff to apply this “ethic” by using the same criteria for deciding a homeless animal’s fate that a compassionate owner or conscientious veterinarian would apply to a beloved pet.  That is, healthy and treatable animals are not killed simply because we lack the room or resources to care for them.

The “no-kill” ethic embodies a commitment that for every animal who comes through a shelter’s doors there is a kind and loving person or family – and it is our mission to bring them together.

There are three statistics animal shelters can use to measure their success, or failure, in reducing pet euthanasia (or killing). To rely on any one or two of these numbers tells only a partial, and possibly obfuscated, story.  When you compare all three of these numbers you are better able to tell your organization and your community’s whole story:

The Live Release Rate (LRR) refers to the number of animals who get out of a shelter alive.  I call this “heartbeats in/heartbeats out”.  It includes adoptions, transfers to rescue organizations, and lost pets returned to owners. Some shelter experts claim a 90 percent LRR is the threshold to “no-kill.”  During my tenure at the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) in Arizona, I maintained a 97 percent LRR for several years.  This is a good internal measurement.

The Euthanasia Rate reports the actual number of animals euthanized.  In the first year implementing the no-kill ethic, YHS achieved a 63 percent reduction in killing, followed by a 64 percent reduction in year two, and a 40 percent reduction in year three; for an overall reduction of 92 percent.  This too is an important internal measure of success or progress.

The Per Capita Kill Rate refers to the number of animals killed per 1,000 residents.  Prior to implementing the no-kill ethic, YHS was killing 17.25 animals per 1,000 residents.  This was one of the worst kill rates in Arizona. However, at the end of my tenure we had reduced the YHS kill rate to 0.2; the lowest in the nation for several consecutive years!  This number is the best for comparing your community with other communities in your state or across the nation.

The Truth About Pit Bulls by Ed Boks

No dog breed in history has encountered more misunderstanding and vilification than the American pit bull. In fact, the pit bull is an all-American breed blessed with tenacious athletic ability, loyalty, intelligence, and high-energy.

Pit bulls are not lap dogs or a dog for the sedentary person. They are not fashion accessories or macho symbols. They are a breed apart from every other canine.

Ed Boks and pit bulls
Sergeant Stubby, the U.S. Army’s original and still most highly decorated canine soldier.

The pit bull was so respected in the early 1900s that the military chose the breed to represent the United States on World War I and World War II recruitment posters. Sergeant Stubby, a pit bull WWI war hero, served in 17 battles, was injured twice in battle, saved his entire platoon by warning them of a poison gas attack, and single-handedly captured a German spy. Stubby earned many medals for heroism, including one presented by General John Pershing, Commanding General of the U.S. Armies. Stubby’s obituary from the New York Times may be viewed at the Connecticut State Military Department’s website.

Ed Boks and pit bulls
Time magazine: Racism is Wrong No Matter Who It Targets

The American pit bull terrier is the only breed ever featured on the cover of Time magazine – and not just once but three times.

Famous people who owned pit bulls include Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, George Patton, Jack Dempsy, Helen Keller, Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire, Anne Bancroft and Thomas Edison.

A few celebrities who own pit bulls today include Jon Stewart, Alicia Silverstone, Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba, Michael J. Fox, Bernadette Peters, Brad Pitt, Madonna, and Rachael Ray.

Pit bulls are commonly used as therapy dogs. Whether they are visiting a senior care facility or helping someone recover from an emotional accident, pit bulls are exceptional therapy dogs.

Pit bulls are also used in Search and Rescue work and serve as narcotic- and bomb-sniffing dogs. One pit bull, Popsicle (so named because he was found in an abandoned freezer), lays claim to the largest recorded single drug bust in Texas history.

Pit bulls are great with kids too, as demonstrated by Petey, the beloved dog featured in “The Little Rascals.” Pit bulls were actually referred to as the “nanny dog” in the early 20th century because of their gentle and loving disposition with kids.

Pits are known for their personality. Even as they age, most remain playful. They are affectionate dogs who appreciate their owner’s attention and approval more than anything else.

While certain purebreds are prone to a long list of health problems, pit bulls are fairly healthy and hearty. They are strong and long-lived. They are low-maintenance because their short coats are easy to care for and you’ll have no grooming bills.

Sadly, a lot of pit bulls never have a chance. Many shelters have a policy to euthanize all pit bulls, and do not adopt them out. Irresponsible individuals, bad breeders and biased media attention have given these wonderful dogs a bad rap. Breed-specific legislation has turned this beloved family pet into an outlaw in some communities. Fortunately, there are many people who are educating the public on the breed and dispelling the myths.

According to The American Temperament Test Society, a national nonprofit organization for the promotion of uniform temperament evaluation of purebred and spayed/neutered mixed-breed dogs, the pit bull scores an 83.4 percent passing rate. That’s better than the popular Australian shepherd (81.5 percent), beagle (80.3 percent), border collie (79.6 percent), boxer (84 percent), Chihuahua (71.1 percent), cocker spaniel (81.9 percent), German shorthair (76 percent), Lhasa Apso (70.4 percent), and miniature poodle (77.9 percent) to name but a few.

The American Temperament Test Society found that pit bulls were generally less aggressive when faced with confrontational situations that produced negative reactions in many other stereotypically “friendly” dog breeds, such as beagles and poodles.

The National Canine Temperament Testing Association tested 122 breeds, and pit bulls placed the 4th highest with a 95 percent passing rate.

The fact is that in most communities pit bulls are so popular that they account for the largest percentage of dogs rescued, adopted – and, sadly, euthanized. If you are interested in adopting a super dog, consider a rescued pit bull.  Most shelters have adoption counselors standing by to help you select the perfect one for you and your family.

July Fourth pet tips by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and FireworksThe month of July is chock-full of patriotic festivities that include outdoor celebrations, picnics, barbecues, and of course, fireworks. Before you pack up for the lake or outdoor arena, stadium or even your own front yard to enjoy the pyrotechnic delights of the holiday, be aware of your pets’ needs and fears.

Animal shelters experience a significant increase in the number of lost (and injured) pets after every July Fourth holiday.

Even pets who are normally calm and obedient can show unpredictable behavior when frightened.  Dogs and cats can become frightened or confused by the excitement and loud noises of the holiday.  I have been involved with rescuing terrified pets who had chewed through their tethers, jumped through plate glass windows or over fences, and escaped “secure” enclosures.

Dogs attempting to flee the frightening, and even painful noises of the fireworks may lose their sense of direction and run long distances risking injury or death as they dart in and out of traffic. This is one of the most dangerous times of year for your pets.

Up close, fireworks can burn or injure your pets, but even if they are far away, they still pose a unique danger to your companion animals.

To minimize the danger to your pets take these few simple steps before you set out to celebrate this Fourth of July:

  • Keep pets indoors in an enclosed area that they are familiar with to minimize fear. If possible, turn on a radio to mask the noise of the fireworks or other celebratory noises.
  • If your pet is excitable, consult your veterinarian to arrange for the administration of a proper calming drug ahead of time.
  • If you have to be away for an extended time, board your pets with family or friends you trust and who can assure you that your pet will be kept confined and cared for.
  • Always be sure your pet has a current microchip. A microchip is the best identification for a pet because it is always with him. A microchip makes it easier for animal control to find you should the unthinkable happen and your pet manages to escape.
  • Even if you think your pet is ok with fireworks and noise, do not let him out when fireworks are being lit and set off. The pet may run at them and sustain serious burns, or bolt and run away.

If your pet does escape this holiday, visit your local shelter every day and post “Lost Dog” or “Lost Cat” signs and canvass surrounding neighborhoods. Place a yard sign in front of your house with a picture of your pet and your phone number. People who find lost pets will often walk or drive around the area attempting to find the owner. This Fourth of July can be the best ever if you take these simple precautions to keep your pets safe and happy. Let’s enjoy the festivities without having to worry about the family pet.

Source: 4th of July Pet Tips

Understanding the enriched shelter experience By Ed Boks

Ed Boks and enrichmentImagine an animal shelter that is quiet and smells clean; where pets are stress and disease free; where dogs are led outside to eliminate, enjoy fresh air and exercise a minimum of 4 times each day; where adoptions into loving homes are permanent; where well-trained staff and volunteers are able to meet the needs of shelter pets and clients; and where the community generously supports shelter activities and programs.

In the enduring words of John Lennon, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

The dream is the Yavapai Humane Society “Enrichment Program” which implements shelter structures and husbandry practices designed to increase behavioral choices in a way that species-appropriate behaviors and abilities are encouraged, thus enhancing each animal’s overall welfare.

In other words, the YHS Enrichment Program is designed to bring out the best in our community’s homeless pets in an effort to make them more adoptable. This wonderful program directly reflects our community’s love and compassion for animals – and with one of the highest Live Release/Adoption Rates in the nation (97 percent) it is clear the program is working!

It is sad to see the negative consequences in shelters lacking an enrichment program. Animals become less adoptable over time because they become hyperactive, bored, anxious, and frustrated. They can lose housetraining skills, and may develop an uncontrolled exuberance at seeing people or withdraw and isolate themselves in fear. These outcomes diminish an animal’s quality of life and their chance at adoption. Thanks to the YHS Enrichment Program, pets learn and retain valuable skills and are happier and more adoptable.

One of the enrichment strategies employed was replacing the chain link fence dividing the kennels with solid dividers which created greater privacy for the dogs resulting in less anxiety, barrier aggression, and barking. The outcome of this one simple change was transformational, creating a feeling of security for perhaps the first time for some dogs and a quieter shelter for the public to visit.

Other YHS Enrichment initiatives include:

  • Well-trained staff (including three behaviorists) and volunteers capable of consistently and positively training dogs and counseling adopters before and after an animal is adopted;
  • Outdoor facilities for training, house breaking, exercise and fresh air;
  • A “behavior” house to sensitize and train dogs to be well behaved indoors;
  • An HVAC system to ensure 8 air exchanges per hour in the kennels to reduce the risk of disease;
  • Kennel beds and toys to allow animals to choose between resting and playing;
  • Piped in music designed to calm animals;
  • Agility courses and play groups to teach self-confidence and good social skills;
  • Educational materials, videos, free handouts, training classes and behavioral services and strategies that provide guidance and information to adopters and the community.

The Enrichment Program benefits the thousands of animals rescued by YHS each year. It reduces behavior problems and decreases stress induced illnesses – making YHS animals healthier, happier and more adoptable. It also provides our community an environment where everyone can be proud of the compassion, care and training we provide our soon to be adopted animals.

If this program resonates with you and you would like to participate, please call your local shelter to find out how you can join their Volunteer Program. If you would like to support this lifesaving program with a gift, you can make a donation to your local shelter and designate it for “enrichment”.  Your support makes a lifesaving difference to many pets.

As John Lennon would say, “I hope someday you’ll join us…”

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. 

Legislators challenge Arizona’s moral progress By Ed Boks

Mahatma Gandhi said it best, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” The same can be said of the states in a nation.

In fact, the greatness and moral progress of all 50 states can be traced through the years by the consistent strengthening of state laws against animal cruelty to include felony provisions. This moral and legal progress has been based on the growing understanding of the link between animal cruelty and violence against humans.

Today, academic journals and textbooks in child welfare, human-animal studies, sociology, child development, criminology, psychology, social work, veterinary medicine, and many other disciplines accept the incontrovertible link between animal abuse, domestic violence, child maltreatment and elder abuse.

Understanding this link, the FBI now requires local law enforcement to track and report animal cruelty the same way homicide, arson and assault are tracked – as a Group A felony.

So, why would any Arizona legislator want to turn back the clock on progress that has taken decades to achieve? Why would any legislator want to strip any animal of any protection provided by the law?

Why would Arizona legislators David Gowan and Brenda Barton work behind closed doors with corporate agriculture lobbyists to craft a bill (HB 2330) designed to repeal the few protections millions of animals have in Arizona?

HB 2330 is not an isolated attempt to repeal Arizona’s animal cruelty laws. Last year enough Arizona legislators supported a similar bill (HB 2150) that it would have been the law of the land today except for Governor Ducey’s veto.

Fortunately, this year’s coup against animal welfare may have died in the Agriculture, Water and Lands Committee when they wisely chose to not agendize HB 2330.

However, the bill could still be resurrected by the House Appropriations Committee this year or introduced in another permutation next year. Animal advocates must remain vigilant in a state where politicians seem strangely determined to weaken animal-cruelty laws.

Apart from some Arizona legislators, animal abuse is widely recognized and understood by law enforcement, public health officials and decent human beings everywhere to be part of a continuum of violence with serious implications for multiple victims and society as a whole.

While Gandhi drew our attention to the societal ramifications of how we treat animals, Immanuel Kant provided some insight into how we should judge politicians who deliberately put animals in harm’s way. “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” This maxim serves as a reliable gauge for assessing the character of politicians who have the power to impact how animals, and people, are treated on a massive scale.

Sponsors and supporters of last year’s HB 2150 and this year’s HB 2330 have telegraphed their agenda to reverse Arizona’s moral progress by revoking protections animals in Arizona have benefited from for decades. They have exposed their intent to put the welfare of millions of animals at risk without any corresponding benefit or legitimate justification. They need to know this is not going unnoticed.

Refer to my Feb. 17 column, “Lawmakers target animals again” to understand the risk of cruelty that HB 2330 posed for millions of animals.