Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bill to curb dog fighting clears House Judiciary

FRANKFORT—A bill that would make Kentucky the last state in the nation to outlaw the possession, training, breeding, and selling of dogs for the purpose of dog fighting has passed the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 154, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Rep.  Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, would add the provisions to current law that makes those who allow or organize the use of four-legged animals in fights for pleasure or profit guilty of felony cruelty to animals in the first degree. Those convicted of the crime face between one and five years in prison.

The bill now goes to the House floor for consideration.

HB 154 “simply does what every other state in the nation has done in expanding the definition of Class D felony to not only people who engage in dog fighting … but to those who knowingly own, possess, keep, breed, train, or sell animals for that purpose,” said Stumbo.

The reason the new provisions are needed is because under current law, offenders have to be “caught in the act” of dog fighting, said Stumbo. “That’s almost impossible to do because they work in the shadowy world of having their fights not well-publicized and …they move from location to location.” He said the fights are lucrative, especially for those who breed, train and possess the dogs.

The bill does not clarify that a four-legged animal is a canine because some fighting addressed by the bill is between dogs and hogs, the Speaker said. In “hog-dog fighting,” a dog is made to fight a wild or domestic hog, said Stumbo.

Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, said he feels the bill is too broad and should clarify what type of animal or animals are being fought. He questioned whether a dog killing or fighting a squirrel could lead to criminal charges against the dog’s owner.

 “I would propose that we do limit to the problem we have here, (which) is dogs fighting other dogs or in this case, the first I’ve heard about, dogs fighting pigs,” said Fischer.

Stumbo said the use of “four-legged animal” in the original law and the proposed language leaves the language open for future possibilities.

 “There’s obviously a segment of the population that for probably very bad, bad reasons enjoys this kind of activity. … I don’t know that we want to limit it,” said Stumbo, adding that the fighting addressed in the bill would have to be for a person’s profit or pleasure.

Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, agreed with Rep. Fischer that the language in HB 154 needs more clarification of how “four-legged animal” is defined. “I want to support this and I intend to support it, and again I would encourage (Speaker Stumbo and Rep. Jenkins) to be open to that and at least be willing to sharpen this language a little bit to alleviate some of these concerns.”

 Stumbo said tweaks could be make to the bill, but that “the real problem is that because we’re the only state that doesn’t have the language about training and possessing that we are becoming a training ground for these kinds of activities.” Law enforcement has to know where the fight is to intervene, he stated.