Local and state legislators propose beefing up animal abuse penalties in Kentucky

Read the original article by Travis Ragdale at wdrb.com here.

When a dog was shot and killed with an arrow this summer, it captured headlines and drew anger from the public.

So far, there have been no arrests in the case, but even if there was, the person accused would likely only be charged with a misdemeanor. But there is now a push from state and local legislators to stiffen penalties for animal abuse offenders.

Louisville Metro Councilman Brandon Coan (D-8) will introduce an ordinance this week aimed at creating a registry of animal abusers in Jefferson County similar to a sex offender registry.

“This is sort of analogous to that,” said Coan, a Democrat. “It’s the same purpose: It’s to create a public log of individuals convicted.”

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Kentucky ranks last in state animal protection laws.

“We’ve got to have something in the toolbox so when we do catch somebody, we can do something with them,” said Louisville Metro Animal Services Director Ozzy Gibson.

Coan’s ordinance would keep those convicted of animal abuse on the registry for two years from the time of their release. It would also include those who plead guilty to animal abuse charges.

“Our problems are so bad that we need to have every tool in the toolbox available,” Coan said. “There is a provision of the ordinance that would require any licensed seller to consult the registry before releasing an animal.”

Meanwhile, there are efforts at the state level to beef up animal protection laws as well.

Rep. Walker Thomas, a Hopkinsville republican, has pre-filed a bill that would eliminate the option of pretrial diversion programs for someone charged with torturing a dog or a cat. It would also bump up torture to a class D felony and prevent anyone who used torture of a pet as intimidation from early release.

Additionally, Louisville Republican Rep. Kevin Bratcher has pre-filed a bill that would make any second offense of animal abuse an automatic class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

“Right now, you can be cruel to animals all you want, and you will never commit a felony in Kentucky,” he said.

Similar legislation was proposed earlier this year at the state level but failed to gain any headway.

“I don’t have any deal of confidence that the state is going to adopt a protective measure like this any time soon,” Coan said.

 Coan’s ordinance is expected to be discussed at a meeting of the Louisville Metro Council Public Safety committee Wednesday.

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