House Bill 2507 amends the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act to allow landlords to save the pets of tenants who are deceased or incapacitated and whose emergency contacts do not respond to the landlord’s request to retrieve the tenant’s animals.
If a tenant’s emergency contact does not respond within one day, the landlord may “deem the animal abandoned, and . . . remove the animal to an animal shelter.” The Residential Landlord and Tenant Act previously treated animals the same as all other personal property. This meant that a landlord could not interfere with the property or consider it abandoned until ten days after the authorized family member or friend failed to respond to the landlord’s request.
The law also authorizes the landlord to release the tenant’s pets to a relative of the tenant if the tenant has no emergency contact to retrieve the animal, the contact information provided for the tenant’s emergency contact is no longer available, or “the landlord is unable to contact the authorized person after one calendar day.”
The governor’s office recognized the bill as “Matthew’s Law,” named for Matthew Meisner, who was murdered by two teenagers while on a walk. After his murder, Meisner’s cousin Meg Epstein “struggled to get into his apartment to save his beloved pets.” Because Meisner’s three cats were considered personal property, the landlord would not provide access until fifteen days had passed. Meisner’s cats were left without food or water for several days, and they were in poor condition when they were finally rescued.
The law will ensure that a similar situation will not arise in Arizona in the future.