Dozens of animal advocates and their four-legged friends crowded the Capitol rotunda Thursday for the 10th annual Humane Lobby Day to protest animal cruelty.
They said their aim was to bring awareness to legislation that, if passed, would bring more protection to animals abused in Kentucky.
One is House Bill 273, which would require people involved in animal cruelty or torture cases to forfeit their animals and prohibit them from owning animals of that species for two years.
“If they’re an animal abuser, they’re going to do it again,” Pamela Rogers, Kentucky’s director for the Humane Society of the United States, told those gathered in the rotunda.
“Your hearts ache, my heart aches … and we can’t help them. We need some laws that’ll help us do that.”
Board President Sam Marcus, rescue coordinator Jeanine Sloan and several volunteers from the Franklin County Humane Society also attended the rally.
They recalled an animal abuse case The State Journal reported in January when the shelter took in more than 20 dogs from a Frankfort home. The owners relinquished 23 dogs, including two puppies found under a trash pile, to the Humane Society.
“Thank goodness she (the owner) signed them over,” said Sloan, who coordinated rescues for most of those dogs. “We could have been tied up had she not relinquished them.”
Because Kentucky doesn’t have a forfeiture law in animal cruelty cases, Sloan said if humane societies take in animals while the owner is being investigated or on trial for animal cruelty, the shelters are required to return the animals to their owners once the investigation or the trial is complete.
She said since most shelters are crowded already, it becomes a problem when humane societies become overrun with unadoptable animals.
Those at Thursday’s rally also urged representatives to support House Bill 233, which would include pets in domestic violence protective orders. The Humane Society of the United States says pets are often used as leverage to control family members who want to leave an abusive situation.
Both bills are in the House Judiciary Committee but have yet to get a hearing.
Forfeiture bills have been introduced to the House for the past five years, Sloan said, but none have made it out of committee.
The last major law the legislature passed regarding animal cruelty was “Romeo’s Law” in 2008, named for a Pulaski County dog whose abuse was caught on tape.
Romeo’s Law upped abuse and torture of a dog or cat from a misdemeanor to a felony.
But Carolyn Schnurr, federal legislative manager for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said Romeo’s Law isn’t enough when Kentucky still doesn’t have a forfeiture law on the books.
“This absence of a protection for (the animals), the fact that they could return (to the alleged abuser), undercuts the very reason for having animal cruelty laws in the first place,” Schnurr said at the rally.
Courtney Girdler from the Pulaski County Humane Society brought Romeo to Thursday’s rally, and said she agreed the existing laws should be reinforced.
“Romeo’s Law was a start, but it needs to be stronger,” she said.
The Animal Defense Legal Fund consistently ranks Kentucky as having the nation’s worst animal protection laws.
In its 2011 report, the ADLF said Kentucky scored last for a number of reasons, including the lack of a forfeiture law and having no statutory authority to allow protective orders to include animals.
The report also says that veterinarians in Kentucky are prohibited from reporting suspected animal abuse cases and there are no felony provisions for extreme neglect or abandonment of animals.