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Chandler City Council approves city code changes on animal cruelty

The adjustments and additions will take effect in 30 days
chandler animal rescue
Posted at 4:31 AM, Dec 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-06 18:09:41-05

CHANDLER, AZ — On Monday, Chandler City Council passed changes to their city ordinance involving animal cruelty.

“We want to make sure animals are protected in our community, and again this will give us better tools to do that,” said Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke.

The mayor stressed, when he talked to ABC15, that these changes will help police officers have more tools to take action.

“But this added... a whole section fully defining cruelty, defining neglect, [and] defining hoarding,” said Mayor Hartke.

The city did not previously define animal hoarding.

The changes also included adding language to the section on unlawful restraint of a dog and updates on the authority to seize and impound animals subject to cruelty.

“It also allows an officer who approached a house and determined that these dogs or these animals were in imminent danger, he has the right then to seize them,” said Mayor Hartke.

After being unanimously approved Monday, Mayor Hartke told ABC15 that these adjustments and additions will take effect in 30 days.

This vote came on the heels of an animal abuse investigation involving April McLaughlin, who also went by the name Sydney McKinley.

More than 50 dogs were removed from her Chandler home in September, where she said she was running a special needs rescue.

Chandler police have said the conditions inside were gruesome.

But Mayor Hartke said changes to their ordinance had already been in the works since the spring.

“We had started the process, but when this came out, it made us really look at this closer,” explained the Chandler mayor.

“I think this is a good step in a positive direction,” said Shayna Brown, who has been following McLaughlin’s case closely. “I'm just so happy that it passed.”

Even though she's from Gilbert, she says she showed up to Municipal Court and Monday's council meeting.

“I wanted to see it all the way through,” said Brown. “I know there are a lot more changes that need to occur, but I think this is a good step in a positive direction.”

“I feel relieved that some action has been taken,” said McLaughlin’s neighbor, Antonia Martinez.

She’s watched this case play out from her front door and is now happy action is being taken.

“If anything comes out of it, it’s that changes have been made,” said Martinez.

Chandler city staff told ABC15 McLaughlin is facing 77 misdemeanor charges in Municipal Court, including almost 50 counts of cruelty to animals.

At her initial appearance, McLaughlin told the judge she is no longer living in her Chandler home.

Felony charges were also submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, but ABC15 was told Monday that the case is still under review.

The Arizona Humane Society released the following statement Wednesday:

"The Arizona Humane Society applauds the City of Chandler for passing a comprehensive animal cruelty ordinance. These changes, which include a definition of animal hoarding and new language stating that peace officers can seize animals when abuse is suspected, ensure that more pets across the Valley can swiftly be removed from cruelty situations. We thank the City of Chandler for the opportunity to provide input on the proposed language and we will continue to be a resource for the City to share our expertise in animal welfare now the ordinance has passed. 

When the ordinance goes into effect in early 2024, the City of Chandler will become an example of a municipality putting pets first, entering the new year with a strong ordinance that clearly defines animal cruelty. AHS encourages other municipalities across the Valley to follow this lead. Until every pet is safe, our work will continue."