Coursey's Bill Would Toughen Pet Abuse Penalties
By WestKentuckyStar Staff
FRANKFORT, KY - Recognizing the strong link between abuse of animals and people, state Rep. Will Coursey filed legislation on Wednesday that would toughen the penalties for those found guilty of intentionally harming cats or dogs.
“I have been told that we’re last among the states when it comes to our animal-protection laws, which unfortunately has made Kentucky a safe haven for these abusers,” said Rep. Coursey, D-Benton. “In addition, studies show that 85 percent of women and 63 percent of children seeking shelter from domestic violence report their abuser harmed household pets as well. If we can stop that early on, I am convinced we can stop future cases of domestic violence.”
Under Rep. Coursey’s legislation (House Bill 409), any torture of cats or dogs would become a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Under current law, the first offense is Class A misdemeanor, unless the animal is severely injured or killed, or if there are multiple offenses.
“These are the truly horrifying crimes, like the one in December involving a mutilated dog that Louisville Metro Animal Services called one of the worst instances of animal abuse it had ever seen,” Rep. Coursey said. “Another case from 2012 involved a man dragging his dog behind his car until the dog died. These are the types of people we need off of the streets.”
The bill, co-sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman John Tilley, also would expand the law’s reach when it comes to cases injuring dogs and cats, and it would make sexual abuse of dogs and cats a Class D felony. Local officials would be able to take custody of animals if it is believed they are in imminent danger, and anyone guilty of a felony crime against these animals would not be albe to own a dog or cat for three years.
“It is time Kentucky does more to protect those animals that enrich our lives in so many ways and that depend on us entirely for their care and well-being,” Rep. Coursey said. “My legislation will do that. At the same time, I want to emphasize that this will not infringe on the rights of otherwise law-abiding farmers and hunters. My hope is that those who may have had concerns in the past about the effect of this bill on these groups will now be able to offer their full support.”
House Bill 409 will now be considered during the General Assembly’s legislative session, which will complete its work by mid-April.