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PETITION TARGET: Kentucky Speaker of the House, David W. Osborne

Dogs and Cats in Kentucky could gain important protections in fighting animal cruelty by expanding the definition of animal torture and strengthening the punishments for animal abuse.

The new HB 258 bill, filed by Kentucky State Representative Susan Witten, broadens the definition of animal “torture” against cats and dogs to be defined as “the intentional infliction of or subjection to extreme physical pain or serious injury or death to a dog or cat, motivated by intent or wanton disregard that causes, increases, or prolongs the pain or suffering of the dog or cat, including serious physical injury or infirmity.”

The new bill expands the term “torture.” In addition to physical injuries such as deliberately cutting, burning, stabbing, drowning, skinning alive, breaking the bones of cats and dogs, and other violent actions, the new bill includes several less obvious but just as dangerous infractions. Examples include denying medical care for dogs with mange, intentionally starving or denying water, locking the animal in a cage or kennel, abandoning the animal in a building for three or more days, sealing the animal in a plastic bag or box, throwing the animal in a dumpster, and chaining or tying down to restrain motion, among others.

The bill will also change a person’s first offense from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted. Under the new bill, each act of torture could be charged as a separate offense, according to Kentucky Today.

Kentucky ranks among the nation’s worst states for animal abuse,” Kentucky State Representative Susan Witten said, according to 44 News. “We can do better and we should.”

A 10-year study of animal abuse cases from 2012 to 2021 found that Kentucky had the 12th highest number of reported animal cruelty offenses. It also has some of the nation’s weakest animal cruelty laws.

Sign our petition encouraging Kentucky legislators to pass HB 258 and provide dogs and cats with much-needed protections against the many forms of animal abuse.