Kentucky is the worst state in the country when it comes to animal protection laws, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. We have been at the bottom of the list for 11 straight years.
An examination of the politics blocking Senate Bill 8 tells us why.
SB 8 is just over a page in its entirety. It provides legal immunity for anyone who breaks into a hot vehicle to rescue a dog or cat if it is in “immediate danger of death.”
It passed out of the Senate with overwhelming, bipartisan support: 35-1. But a couple of influential lawmakers in the Kentucky House of Representatives have friends who are opposed to this bill, so they are holding it up.
Once again, Kentucky lawmakers are living up to the common political stereotypes of the day: inability to accomplish anything and, in this case, due to a cultural impasse — rural conservatives battling the most fundamental, common-sense legislation to protect their culture, heritage.
The law spells out a clear, specific set of circumstances that must be followed to receive immunity after rescuing the dog or cat: First, an effort must be made to find the owner of the car and animal; then, local law enforcement must be called; “the dog or cat is in immediate danger of death”; the person must remain with the dog or cat in a safe location, while still close to the car or truck, until law enforcement arrives; and, finally, if “emergency conditions require leaving the scene with the animal…” one has to leave a note including contact information, reason for breaking into the car, location of the animal and notice that law enforcement has been called.
That’s the entire bill.
The Kentucky Houndsmen Association is fighting this bill. The Houndsmen fashions itself as an advocate for sportsmen who like hunting with hounds. Their goal is to “protect and preserve the hunting heritage of the sportsmen in the great state of Kentucky.”
They are actively working against this bill and lying to prevent it being brought up for a vote, where it would certainly pass with bipartisan support.
A couple of their fellow Houndsmen are lawmakers who are stopping the bill from coming to the House floor for a vote. In a Facebook post, the Houndsmen said: “…SB 8 gives Animal Rights Extremist the right to break into our vehicles and take our hunting dogs WITH NO LIABILITY.”
That’s a lie.
The question is, why?
Kentucky sporting heritage. Slippery slope. Re-election.
Part of Kentucky’s heritage includes bestiality — sex with animals. Kentucky remains one of only four states where it is legal to have sex with animals. The Houndsmen, along with the Kentucky Farm Bureau — the homophobic “voice of Kentucky farmers” — lobbied and successfully stopped a bestiality bill last year, saying it was a slippery slope.
Their concern was that a future law could jeopardize farmers who artificially inseminate livestock. To alleviate these concerns, the bill was specifically limited to criminalizing sex with “pets” — dogs and cats.
But… slippery slope, heritage.
The hypocrisy of lawmakers resisting fundamental animal protection legislation is that it reinforces a stereotype about the state that impedes larger economic development and growth. Businesses and young professionals don’t want to move to a state that is embarrassingly antiquated, with the inhumane treatment of animals — dogs and cats — being one issue.
As of 2017, the Animal Legal Defense Fund said, over 25 states have some iteration of a “hot cars” law.
This is an easy one.
Bills in state and federal legislatures are most often held up by leadership to protect their members from casting votes that can be used against them in future elections. Republican House leaders David Osborne and Jonathan Shell have the power to reassign bills and force a vote.
This is an easy vote.
Kentucky lawmakers have an opportunity to break two stereotypes: inaction and animal cruelty. Get these easy bills done so you can focus on the big, difficult issues.
There is still time to call and pressure Republican House Speaker David Osborne and get an easy one done. It is good for our animals. It’s good for the state.
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @reposborne •