LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – The clock is ticking in Frankfort as lawmakers enter the final days of this year’s legislative session. Several big bills are expected in the coming days and animal rights are hoping one isn’t overlooked. House Bill 20 expands parts of Kentucky’s 45-year-old animal abuse law.
Supporters are hoping it gets a vote to prevent future cases like Ethan’s, a dog so neglected the abuse left him with mental damage.
“Another hour where he was and he wouldn’t be here,” Ethan’s owner Jeff Callaway told FOX 56.
Callaway adopted Ethan in March 2021, after he was dumped on the Kentucky Humane Society’s property earlier that January. Callaway described an intense recovery that required a week-long stay in an animal hospital.
“The first three to four days of that he couldn’t even lift his head to eat or drink and he couldn’t walk,” Callaway said.
Based on his condition, Callaway said it was clear when he arrived he had been abused.
“Over the course of a couple weeks it’s pretty obvious he didn’t have any food, but he was given just enough little bit of water that he stayed alive, but not enough to make him healthy or for him to gain any strength.”
Callaway said it was also clear Ethan had been restrained to the point he couldn’t move. Callaway suspected whoever brought Ethan to the humane society was not the abuser, but possibly a good Samaritan who took the dog from that living situation and dropped it off somewhere it could possibly be helped.
House Bill 20 would increase the penalty for torture and intentional neglect of a dog or cat to a felony. Under Kentucky’s current animal cruelty law, the crime is considered a misdemeanor.
“There are I believe 52 co-sponsors of the bill so theoretically you would think if it was called for a vote it would pass,” Callaway said.
This is not the first time Kentucky lawmakers have considered raising the penalty. Ethan’s name became attached to a similar bill last year, but it didn’t get past the committee. Callaway said this bill clarifies vague language so responsible owners don’t fall in the cracks.
“If you are giving effort in treating your animal the way that an animal should be treated then you got no problems, this is not about dogs that are kept in kennels, it’s not about dogs that are kept on chains,” Callaway said.
Now, with his health thriving, Ethan is a comfort dog for other animals at the humane society and has gained a social media following of his own as both he and his owner continue to advocate for change.
With less than 10 days left in the General Session, Callaway encouraged people who feel passionate about the issue to call their representative at 1-800-372-7181.