PHOENIX — April is prevention of cruelty to animals month and since the passing of a new law in Arizona, people can face jail time for abuse.
For the first time since HB 2671 was signed into law in May of 2019 by Governor Doug Ducey, a man has been sentenced to serve jailtime for abusing an animal.
“The felony charge cannot be dropped to a misdemeanor and in most cases the sentence would include jail time,” said Ruthie Jesus, Field Operations Supervisor and Emergency Animal Medical Technician with the Arizona Humane Society (AHS).
In September of 2019, Miso, a pug was found battered and bruised suffering fractured ribs and pelvis.
According to the Arizona Humane Society, Netzer Villagomez was found guilty via a plea of Class 5 animal cruelty due to the horrific nature of abuse.
As a part of the plea agreement, Villagomez was sentenced to the following:
- 120 days in jail;
- Three years supervised probation;
- 360 hours of community service;
- No contact w/ victims;
- A mental health assessment;
- Attend anger management counseling;
- Drug monitoring and counseling;
- An order to not own, possess, harbor, keep or maintain animals during the length of probation; and
- Restitution paid to AHS.
The bill strengthened Arizona’s animal cruelty laws to ensure that the punishment for the most heinous acts of animal cruelty now more appropriately fit the crime.
COVID-19 and the AHS investigations
Last year, AHS’ Animal Cruelty Investigators responded to 6,211 cases of suspected animal cruelty, a drop in call volume but investigations have looked different during the pandemic.
“Some of the cases we saw in the past year were very difficult,” said Jesus.
AHS teams have witnessed horrific scenes throughout the pandemic including deceased animals, abuse and people who have died by suicide.
“We saw folks unfortunately taking their own life. We saw a lot of diseased cases and abuse cases. And in my opinion and own experience with the humane society we saw a lot more cases related to domestic violence,” said Jesus.
The pandemic changed the way AHS teams investigated. Teams wear personal protective equipment to protect themselves from COVID-19.
“Durning the worst months of the pandemic, my team was going into homes that were COVID positive in full PPE and pulling out animals that were COVID positive,” said Jesus.
“If you see something say something. If you have a question about what may or may not be animal cruelty and neglect call us,” said Jesus. "Arizona Humane Society has a dispatch team and we work seven days a week. You can call a police dispatcher and we can go over the laws with you."
To request an ambulance for a sick or injured stray animal in the Valley, an animal in distress or if you suspect an animal is being abused or neglected, call 602.997.7585 Ext. 2073. For abuse cases, you may also fill out our online form. Services are free and available daily from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. For livestock investigations, please contact the Department of Agriculture at 602.542.4373.