Kentucky bill calls for animal abusers to pay for care of rescued animals
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky lawmakers filed a bill that would require accused animal abusers to pay for boarding, transportation, veterinary bills, and other costs while their court cases are pending.
Currently in Kentucky, agencies that seize animals from potentially abusive situations are required by law to keep the animals and pay for their care until the owner’s criminal proceedings are over.
In Julia Sharp’s experience, she said that process has taken years. Sharp is the director of TLC Rescue, which seized 108 dogs in May 2018 from the Trixie Foundation, a private Elliot County animal shelter with cruelty allegations exposed by WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters in a series of investigations.
The operator of the Trixie Foundation, Randy Skaggs, was charged with 179 counts of animal cruelty three years ago. However, he was initially allowed to keep his dogs because the state and county couldn’t afford to take them.
“It was the cost that was prohibiting them from upholding the animal cruelty statutes,” Sharp said. “The only way to get those animals out was for my small rescue to step up and accept the cost of their care.”
She rescued the dogs in May 2020. As required by Kentucky law, Sharp must keep the animals and pay for their care until Skaggs’ criminal proceedings are complete. However, Sharp said his trial has been delayed for years and still has not begun.
All this time, Sharp said she’s spent “tens of thousands of dollars” on the dogs’ medical bills and other supplies, while Skaggs is off the hook financially.
“We aren’t the people who broke the law, but we are the ones being punished for it,” Sharp said. “We have been put in a really ugly position, and there’s no way out of it.”
A bill pre-filed by Representatives Kim Banta (R-Ft. Mitchell) and Cherlynn Stevenson (D-Lexington) would make it the owner’s responsibility to either pay for the animal’s cost of care or surrender the animal so it can be put up for adoption.
Kentucky is one of only 12 states that doesn’t currently have this kind of law.
Banta said during a legislative hearing the bill would benefit shelters, taxpayers and the animals.
“Sometimes people don’t go after large animal cruelty or hoarding (situations) because they don’t want the cost of care, and this is actually giving them an option to have cost of care should that happen,” Banta said.
“It would put all the cost on the abuser,” Sharp said. “They would have to pay to maintain these animals, or they would have to sign them over, and when they sign them over those animals are now free and clear to go onto better lives, go onto rescue homes, etcetera,” she continued. “It would change everything.”
Kentucky lawmakers tried to pass a similar bill last year, but it didn’t receive a hearing. The next legislative session will begin in January.
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