- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Rep. Kate Brophy McGee was brought to tears Tuesday during an emotional testimony on an Arizona bill that would bar local authorities from enforcing animal-cruelty laws on farms and other livestock operations.

Brophy McGee, a sponsor on the bill, said she spent the last year working on it with the best intentions — intentions that have since been misrepresented by animal welfare activists, she said before the Committee on Agriculture and Water. Animal-rights activists say the bill is a veiled attempt to eliminate undercover investigations at animal processing plants and farms. The committee passed the bill 6-2.

“They would have you believe that none of us care,” Brophy McGee said of the groups.

She said she was offended and tired of allegations that the bill, whose primary sponsor is Rep. Brenda Barton of Payson, was anything but an attempt to protect animals. Barton and Brophy McGee are both Republicans.

House Bill 2587 would give full authority to investigate animal-abuse claims on farms and other livestock operations to the state Department of Agriculture, negating local law enforcement jurisdiction. Representatives from the Maricopa County Sheriff County’s Office, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio has made a mission out of tackling animal abuse, and from the Arizona Police Association, said they opposed the bill as it stands because it would bar them from enforcing the law.

An amendment added Tuesday allows the state Department of Agriculture to coordinate with local law enforcement, but police executives say that amendment doesn’t do enough to restore power to local officers.

What’s more, animal-rights activists say the intent of the bill is to stop undercover operations that reveal animal cruelty, which sponsors of the bill adamantly deny. The bill would require anyone with photographic or video evidence of animal cruelty to report it within five days.

Chris Green, director of legislative affairs for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said it was “very clear” the bill was meant to reduce undercover investigations. He told the Associated Press that lawmakers in several other states have tried passing similar legislation that limits undercover stings.

“They want to keep investigators out of their farms,” Green said.

Supporters of the bill say it is unjust to animals to know of abuse and not report it immediately.

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