Animal legislation prevalent in Kentucky's pre-filed bills

09/07/2018 09:28 PM

LOUISVILLE — On a rainy day in Louisville, temperatures still hovered around 75 degrees in the afternoon
On a sunny day in summer- temps can get near 100.

Inside a car it can get even hotter. In a test in the Spectrum News parking lot, a thermometer in the car read 94 degrees after 5 minutes parked outside.
That’s why Representative Kevin Bratcher, whose district includes part of Louisville, says there should be a law that help protect pets that are left in cars.
“Kentucky’s on the bottom of animal abuse laws. And I figured it’s time that we get off the bottom. You know every year we go down in session, we’re reminded how low Kentucky is with animal treatment. So, I looked at Tennessee, and Tennessee’s culture and Kentucky’s culture are pretty equal, especially in the rural areas. And I figured, Tennessee is number 14, and we’re number 50, so I said if we can mirror a lot of the things Tennessee is doing and we can come up off the bottom,” explained the Republican lawmaker.

Teeya Barnes, says currently in Kentucky, people who see a pet overheating in a car can’t legally break a car window to get the animal. Barnes is the Public Information Supervisor for Louisville Metro Animal Services. She explained, “In Kentucky, if you were to break into a car to save a hot pet in a hot vehicle, there are no laws on the books that could protect you. What if the police showed up, EMS showed up, fire showed up, they took this pet, turned it over to Metro Animal Services, then the problem is legally you’re not protected. There’s no law that says the owner of that car can’t sue you for breaking their car windows.”
Bratcher’s bill (BR 120) would change that.
Bratcher explained how his bill would work, saying “There have been cases around the country where a dog or a cat is in a car and it’s left by the driver that leaves their doors up and the poor thing suffocates. And there are several states that have done this to where you can knock out the window, after you call 911, you can’t go willy-nilly breaking windows but after you call 911, and if it looks like it’s a life or death situation, you can do it and escape any kind of misdemeanor or a felony”
Barnes says as it stands now, if people see a pet in a hot car, they should call Metro Animal Services who will come out immediately.
However, Barnes says they don’t get too many emergency calls for pets in hot cars.
She says they get more calls about animal neglect and even abuse.
Recalling one bad incident, Barnes said “A couple of months ago a dog came into the shelter. It had been shot through with an arrow that was sticking out of its body. Unfortunately, that pet passed away and we have been trying to seek justice for it. There’s a $7,500 reward, but unfortunately, if we were to find that person, there’s no laws on the books that outright say you can be charged immediately. We would have to take that to the county prosecutor to see if they could charge that person.”
While Bratcher’s bill won’t change that, it would mean harsher sentences for repeat animal abusers.
“In Kentucky, you have a torture statute and a cruelty statute. On the second offense of a torture statute, it’s a felony, first is a misdemeanor, second is a felony. Now, on a cruelty, no matter how many times you perform cruelty to an animal, it never reaches felony status. So, this bill will make it the second time you commit cruelty to an animal, that it will be a felony,” said Bratcher.
BR 121 also includes an animal abusers registry.
The animal abusers registry would work similar to the sex offenders registry and would be posted on a searchable website.
Barnes says she thinks that will help, but says Kentucky needs to work harder when it comes to prosecuting animal abuse.
“It’s hard to prosecute a crime against an animal when you don’t have a witness in Kentucky, so those laws must be strengthened as well,” said Barnes.
Bratcher says that is a priority for him. “My main goal is to get Kentucky off the bottom. That would be a great start for anything in the future. We’ve got to get Kentucky off the bottom. I want to bring farmers, and dog breeders and houndsmen breeders and the general public and animal lovers. I want to see if we can get all at a table and come up with something we can live with and move Kentucky forward.”
Both bills have already been pre-filed but Bratcher says he thinks he will have an uphill battle getting them passed.


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