Saturday, February 22, 2003

Senate bill would make dog, cat torture felony

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The Kentucky Senate passed a bill Friday to make it a felony to torture pet dogs or cats, but only for repeat offenders.

People convicted of second or subsequent offenses of animal torture could be sent to prison for one to five years. A first offense would be a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of a year in jail.

The bill passed 32-0 with little discussion and heads to the House.

The measure applies only to domesticated dogs and cats. The bill was drafted originally to make even a first offense a felony Sen. Tom Buford, the bill's lead sponsor, said Friday that animal-cruelty laws are so weak that judges have apologized to pet owners for the sentences they handed down to those who abused their animals. Buford said such acts of cruelty can have long-lasting effects on pet owners.

"What this law is all about is the individual - a lot of times it's a youthful offender - that would intentionally take that pet ... and do something so vicious to it," said Buford, a Nicholasville Republican.

Buford said the tougher penalty could help snare offenders who might start out by torturing animals, then turn their aggression on people.

The bill carries several exemptions to cover hunters, fishing, trapping, medical research, and dog and cat shows.

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