Kentucky is the Nation’s Worst State for Animal Welfare
For the seventh consecutive year, the state of Kentucky has been ranked as America’s lowest when it comes to animal protection laws. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, this state has shown a chronic lack of the appropriate penalties, law enforcement policies and prohibitions needed to protect pets and farm animals living within its boarders.
Each year, a shocking 6-8 million animals enter shelters in the U.S. While the majority of states are constantly analyzing and updating laws in order to afford these animals some level of humane treatment and hope for a happy future, Kentucky has only passed two laws regarding the treatment of animals since 2008.
In 2008, lawmakers passed “Romeo’s Law,” which made the torture of animals a class D felony. While this was certainly a step in the right direction, the second law, which went into effect in 2010, may have been a step backwards. In 2010, Warren County Circuit Court Judge John Grise ruled that “[a] veterinarian may not breach confidentiality and suspected abuse is not an exception to that.”
While the judge later stated that he believed the new law would encourage owners of injured pets to seek treatment for their animals without fear, many Kentucky veterinarians, including Dr. Vicky McGrath, believe that the law opens up a dangerous gray area. “If somebody seeks care, then I am going to give that animal care, and they did the right thing by coming to seek care. It becomes more gray if say there were repeated incidents, you fear for that animal’s life if it went back into a situation,” she confided.
For Animal Control Supervisor Shelley Furlong, the fight to protect animals in Kentucky often seems like an uphill battle. Throughout her career, Furlong has seen many cases of animal abuse, neglect, abandonment and outright torture; “I just wish everyone would look at [animals] like their children, ya know… I know a lot of people say a dog’s a dog, but it’s not it’s your family.”
One of the biggest issues Furlong is working to overcome is the prevalence of dog fighting in Kentucky. Kentucky is currently the only state that does not prosecute a person who owns an animal for the purpose of fighting. In order for a dog fighter to be punished by the law, he or she must be caught in the act, which is no easy task for law enforcers. “We know there is a lot of pit bill fighting going on here in Barren County,” Furlong said, ” but I can’t locate it. I have been searching for ten years to find them, I can’t find them.” Another disturbing fact is that, in spite of Kentucky’s drastic hot and cold seasons, the state’s law does not require shelter for domestic or farm animals.
Although animal lovers throughout the state have tried their best to help change laws, Kentucky, to this day, possesses a very strong farming culture and has largely resisted legislation that protects the rights of animals. However, there is hope on the horizon as four new bills have been proposed during this legislative session. Although there’s no guarantee these bills will pass, they do begin to address important issues, like dog fighting and lack of required shelter, that animal rights advocates in Kentucky have been fighting so long to bring into the public eye.
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