Ky. animal cruelty laws need review

Published 9:00 am Thursday, July 27, 2017

Arecent animal cruelty case in Clark County raises concerns once again about the need for strengthened animal cruelty laws in the Commonwealth.

According to court records, SOAR representative Tracy Miller said the organization received a complaint in May about a dog, which was swollen and chained to a shed.

A Facebook post from the rescue describes in deatail the living situation of this dog, named Spanky.

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“In 20 years of rescue, I had not seen anything so awful, my heart broke and still does at the suffering in which he endured for so long,” the rescue representative wrote. He was let to “suffer beyond recognition. A brain tumor had taken over his entire face and maggots were eating away at his eye sockets.”

The owner surrendered the dog to SOAR and Miller said she took the dog to a veterinarian, which recommended euthanasia.

Besides the severe swelling,  the dog also had fleas and maggots, was dehydrated, lethargic and depressed. The dog was believed to have been bitten by a snake about two weeks earlier, but had not received medical treatment.

An X-ray also found a cancerous brain tumor, according to medical records in the court record.

A necropsy performed at the University of Kentucky determined the dog had a deformed skull and a possible abscess.

A Clark woman was sentenced to 90 days in the case and ordered not have any pets after she pleaded guilty to second-degree animal cruelty Monday. But, she will not serve jail time for second-degree cruelty to animals as the judge conditionally discharged the time for two years.

The owner was ordered to pay restitution for SOAR’s expenses in the case.

Unfortunately, cases such as Spanky’s are not uncommon around the U.S., but in Kentucky animal cruelty laws are ranked the weakest in the country. In January, the Animal Legal Defense Fund released an annual report ranking Kentucky last in the nation for animal protection laws.  The ALDF annual report has been released each year for 11 years, and Kentucky has ranked worst in the nation for the last 10.

According to the report, Kentucky law is lacking adequate definitions and standards of basic care, mental health evaluations for offenders, the ability to include animals in protective orders, cost mitigation and recovery provisions for impounded animals, court-ordered forfeiture provisions, provisions for select agencies and professionals to report suspected abuse, and adequate animal fighting provisions. Additionally, in Kentucky, veterinarians cannot report suspected abuse and humane officers are not given “broad law enforcement authority.”

While there are great concerns about laws involving protection for people, we should also be concerned that all those creatures who are unable to fully protect themselves are afforded protections by law. This includes children, the elderly, the disabled and animals.

When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of basic human decency. The right and proper thing to do is to care for these individuals and animals providing them the best possible life, and at the very least their basic necessities.

No animal, or person for that matter, should be neglected or abused at the hands of another.

However, human decency is not always practiced to its fullest potential.

These animals did not ask to be domesticated or to live under our care, but in doing so, we must understand the great responsibility that comes with being responsibility for another living creature.

We commend the judge in this case for ordering that this individual no longer own animals. But that is not always the case and the enforcement of these provisions is not always taken seriously. That is why the laws need to be strengthened to serve justice for those animals that were wrongfully abused and to prevent future abuse and neglect.

We urge not only the state legislature, but also our local government to do its part in strengthening these laws to protect our animal counterparts .

Take this “worst in the nation” ranking seriously and pass legislation that encourages decent and safe treatment of animals.