UPDATE: Animal cruelty care cost bill advances in Frankfort

A state Senate committee on Tuesday advanced a measure that would force owners of animals seized in cruelty investigations pay for their case while the case was pending

Update from March 1, 2022:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday advanced Senate Bill 125 which would require owners of animals seized in cruelty investigations in Kentucky pay for their care while the case was pending.

Some lawmakers voiced concern the language in the bill was too broad and could apply to livestock, causing potential problems for farmers.  The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Julie Raque Adams, of Louisville, says she’s open to changes in the bill to make it clear it would not apply to legitimate farming practices.

The bill is designed to keep local animal shelters and rescues from being financially crippled by having to pay for the cost of care for animals seized in cruelty investigations, which can be expensive as the case winds its way through the legal system.

Under the proposed legislation, a judge could order the owner of seized animals to pay for their care while the case was pending.  The owner would have the right to give up the animal(s), which would not affect the criminal case, but would allow shelters and rescues to adopt them out and end the cost of caring for them.

Under the bill, if an owner didn’t forfeit the animal(s) and was later acquitted, they would get back any payments for caring for them.

Kentucky is one of only 12 states without some form of a cost of care law, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

 

Original story below from February 14, 2022:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Currently in Kentucky, humane societies and taxpayer dollars are being used to pay for animal abusers’ actions, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The organization says when animals are taken from an abusive home, the cost of care during the abuser’s trial can add up to tens of thousands of dollars.

“People are outraged to find out that animals are still left with that abuser and people don’t understand why,” says Jai Hamilton, cruelty investigator with Lexington-Fayette Animal Care and Control. “The reason is, is because the county can’t afford these costs.”

In both the state house and senate a proposed bill would change the way this care is paid for, putting the responsibility back on the abuser. The Humane Society of the United States says Kentucky is one of only 12 states that doesn’t have a version of this law.

“If you’re an animal lover, you should celebrate that this could be a coming about because this is a situation where animals could find homes more quickly, they can be cared for properly, and be able to head to their forever homes,” says Todd Blevins, KY state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

House Bill 71 and Senate Bill 125 have bi-partisan support. While both bills would require the same change of payment and ownership action, SB125 requires slightly less on the burden of proof needed in these cases. Both bills are in committee and can be read in full at the links above.

“It can range from cases of large scale neglect, where somebody has a whole lot of animals and just can’t take care of them anymore, to cases of animal fighting to puppy mills to all sorts of things like that,” says Blevins. “Because there are so many cases, we’re talking lots and lots of dollars.”

The “Cost of Animal Care” law says there has to be a lot of evidence for taking the animals from the home to make sure owners aren’t paying unfairly. But if the owner doesn’t pay for the care, the animal would be able to be put for adoption.

The proposed bills could also help keep these animals away from the abuser after jail time is served. It could give judges the power to change ownership of the animal to the shelters.

“These animals are already victimized, so when we remove the animals, we’re putting them into a shelter,” says Hamilton. “A shelter is no life for an animal and an animal that’s been victimized shouldn’t have to sit here for a year or two and wait until we’re done with our legal process.”

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