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House proposes harsher penalties for dog/cat torture

From Jordan Hensley, LRC

Frankfort, KY - Changes to Kentucky's animal cruelty laws could be on the way under a new House bill.

House Bill 103 would redefine what torture, physical injury and serious physical injury or infirmity of a dog or cat means in state statute and make the first offense a class D felony, according to bill co-sponsor Rep. Nick Wilson, R-Williamsburg. The bipartisan bill's primary sponsor is Rep. Ryan Dotson, R-Winchester.

"This bill is badly needed," Wilson said. "There is a blind spot that I have experienced when it comes to the laws on animal abuse. During my experience as a prosecutor, we rarely had good options on combating animal abuse behavior."

Wilson shared an example of a case where a person shot a dog more than 30 times, but under current state law, the person could only be charged with a class A misdemeanor on the first offense. HB 103 would change that to a class D felony.

Under HB 103, torture would be defined as the intentional infliction or subjection to extreme physical pain or serious injury or death to a dog or cat. That would include injuries that occur because a dog or cat is restrained, such as being in dumped in a dumpster, sealed in a plastic bag or box, abandoned, or manually restrained, chained or tied down.

Some examples of torture of a dog or cat defined in the bill include, intentionally causing fractures, cuts, burns, bruises, punctures, hanging, impaling, skinning alive, physical disfigurement, dehydration, starvation, hyperthermia, hypothermia or death.

The bill would also allow a tortured dog or cat to be humanely euthanized at the recommendation of a veterinarian if the animal is seized but still alive and suffering.

Wilson said Dotson worked with many groups, including sportsmen and hunters, to craft this bill.

"(HB 103) has common sense exceptions for hunting, fishing, trapping, humane purposes, veterinary purposes, cosmetics, spay and neutering, sporting activities like dog shows, bonafide animal research, self-defense or defense of another person or pet," Wilson said.

Rep. Derek Lewis, R-London, asked Wilson if any sporting groups had any issues with the bill. Wilson said he was not aware of any.

Rep. Kim Banta, R-Fort Mitchell, spoke in favor of HB 103, but wants the Kentucky General Assembly to continue to strengthen animal cruelty laws.

"I think this is a good bill," she said. "I am going to be a 'yes.' It doesn't go far enough. I literally cannot stand this or any kind of abuse ... I say let's keep going."

HB 103 cleared the House Judiciary Committee by a 15-0 vote with two pass votes. It will now go before the full House for consideration.

This story was posted on 2023-03-01 17:23:57
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