In addition to ranking 50th in animal welfare for the past nine years, Kentucky could also claim the disappointing moniker as the only state in the U.S. that did not outlaw all activities tied to dogfighting.
This is set to change, though. As of March 25th, the Senate passed House Bill (HB) 428, a piece of legislation that will finally make it illegal in Kentucky for any person to “own, possess, keep, train, sell, or otherwise transfer a dog for the purpose of dogfighting.”
The final act of HB 428 becoming law rests with Kentucky’s Governor, Matt Bevin. Governor Bevin has three options in regard to HB 428 being added to Kentucky’s laws. After receiving HB 428, Governor Bevin has 10 days – excluding Sundays – in which he may 1) sign the bill into law, 2) allow it to become law without his signature or 3) veto it.
If Governor Bevin were to veto HB 428 – which is highly unlikely – HB 428 could still become law by a majority vote of the members of both houses.
Earlier this year in the Kentucky legislative session, Senate Bill (SB) 14 was presented as a bill to outlaw activities tied to dogfighting. However, after an extremely detrimental committee substitution was added which could have made the loophole in Kentucky’s dogfighting law even larger, efforts were shifted to introduce and have HB 428 passed instead.
Mary Karen Stumbo, who is active in advocating for Kentucky’s animals and is the wife of House Speaker Greg Stumbo, explained to BarkPost how last year’s failure to pass this kind of legislation helped to spark the momentum needed for this year.
“I was actively involved in 2015 [regarding dogfighting legislation], and those negotiations went down to the proverbial wire, but we were not able to close the deal. As with many issues I’ve advocated for through the years, it’s frustrating when you believe you’re on the right side of an issue and it becomes part of a political tug of war. That being said, I felt we had enough traction last year and enough public outcry that the legislators would have to really take a good, long look at this area in which we were so desperately lagging behind other states in the 2016 session.”
An interesting observation, Mary Karen witnessed something this legislative session that is seeming to become more unique in politics.
“I have learned that those who are passionate about animals have sort of an intrinsic bond that transcends party lines. It’s really quite fascinating.”
Renee Marcum-Losey, a co-founder of UNITED Against Dog-Fighting who has also created petitions which served to urge Kentucky’s legislators to vote in favor of passing legislation like HB 428, spoke to BarkPost about HB 428 passing both houses.
“…HB 428 isn’t perfect, but for Kentucky, a state often ranked as the worst state for animal welfare, it is certainly a start. It is a bill that we can build upon and [as] it stands now, has the potential to rid our state of dogfighting and the miscreants that engage in it. It’s good news for the dogs who reside here, and that makes me happy! It finally gives law enforcement officials the tools they need to arrest and prosecute the dogfighting criminals who make Kentucky their home. It’s a step in the right direction and hopefully, just the beginning of better animal welfare legislation in our state.”
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from HB 428 is how influential the voices of the public were in this process.
As Mary Karen referenced, with the public outcry for this kind of legislation to be passed, we are able to see the effects of concerned citizens respectfully speaking up and continuing to make their voices heard on an issue that they are deeply passionate about. When that is done, there is no choice but for change to occur and for Kentucky’s dogs, that change has finally come.
Featured image via ASPCA