OPINION: Animal cruelty laws need to be strengthened

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

Over the weekend the Clark County Animal Shelter responded to a severe case of animal neglect.

Shelter Director Adreanna Wills called the situation, where four severely malnourished dogs and a cat were removed from a Linden Avenue home, the “worst case of outright neglect” she’d seen in the county.

Photos of the animals, which we chose not to share because of the graphic nature of their condition, show nearly lifeless dogs that are skin and bones. At first glance, it would be hard to tell the animals removed from this home were even alive.

They were breathing, but they certainly weren’t living a quality life.

Charges against the animals’ owners are pending, and we will continue to update the story as more information becomes available.

But it’s hard not to become emotional when thinking about the conditions these animals survived. Wills said the home was covered in urine and feces. The animals were being eaten alive by fleas. There were no utilities on in the home, meaning the animals were without air conditioning during one of the hottest weekends of the summer.

And there is no telling how long they survived this way.

While the suspects in this case are innocent until proven guilty, the story is a sad example of how little value some people place on an animal’s life.

Unfortunately, cases such as this are not uncommon around the U.S., but Kentucky’s animal cruelty laws are ranked the weakest in the country.

Last year, 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 decade.

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, yes, animals.

When it comes down to it, this is a matter of basic human decency. The right 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 living creature should be neglected or abused at the hands of another.

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

In taking ownership of animals we must understand the great responsibility that comes with it.

Often, perpetrators essentially get a “slap on the wrist.” They will face fines, minimal jail time and be ordered not to have pets. But enforcement of these provisions is not always taken seriously.

The laws need to be strengthened to serve justice for those animals that were wrongfully abused and to prevent future abuse and neglect.

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board. The board is comprised of publisher Michael Caldwell and managing editor Whitney Leggett. To inquire about a meeting with the board, contact Caldwell at 759-0095.