Animal fighting penalties increase under measure

This bill is crucial for addressing other crimes that take place at animal fights

                                 capitol floor

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Legislation has been filed in the state Senate seeking to enhance criminal penalties for animal fighting. The measure is backed by the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police and Kentucky Sheriffs' Association.

Senate Bill 243, sponsored by Sen. Greg Elkins, R-Winchester, would strengthen laws against animal fighting. If passed, it would constitute a serious offense for anyone knowingly causing, organizing, or participating in animal fighting.

Elkins says he believes the bill is crucial for addressing other crimes that take place at animal fights, including drug trafficking, arms trafficking, organized crime, and human violence.

"This bill is an important part of safeguarding our reputation as a commonwealth," he said. "For too long, animal fights have served as cauldrons of crime in Kentucky. With the support of our law enforcement community, I'm proud to file SB 243 to crack down on these criminal enterprises and make our communities safer."

Under a provision of SB 243, simply being present at an animal fighting event or allowing a minor to attend would also be considered a crime. Furthermore, a person would be guilty of cruelty to animals in the first degree when knowingly causing an animal to engage in an animal fight.

"This legislation will stop our children from being exposed to animal abuse and other violent crimes at an early age," Elkins added.

Cruelty to animals in the first-degree is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted of any violations outlined in the bill, the consequences can include forfeiture of the animal involved, limitations on future animal ownership, and transfer of the animal to either the original owner or the county animal control officer. Class A misdemeanors also carry maximum penalties of 12 months in jail and $500 in fines.

The bill clarifies that falconry and hunting with proper permits and licenses are exceptions and not violations.

According to the 2023 U.S. State Animal Protection Laws Rankings report from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Kentucky ranks 46th in the nation for its laws concerning animal abuse.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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