Lawmakers try to strengthen Kentucky's animal cruelty laws

EMINENCE, KY - WAVE 3 has followed two major local stories regarding animal abuse. One was a cat torturing in Jefferson and Bullitt Counties. Another was an animal hoarding case out of Henry County. Following these stories, four lawmakers filed a bill regarding animal abuse in Kentucky, which has some of the most lax laws in the country.

In December, Terri Smith was arrested on more than 200 counts of animal cruelty after the Henry-Trimble County Animal Control found dogs, cats, geese, rabbits, even a wolf on her property.

New court documents have an exert of the Animal Control report which says Smith told the told the officer on the cell phone that she said "you are going to take my animals...because of the conditions and some of the dogs were sick." She also requested a few days to get the place cleaned up. The document continues that Ofc. Dan Flinkfelt asked her to go to the property. She stated "I'm in Louisville with my brother and I'm not coming back."

Flinkfelt says most of the animals are in rescues and foster care, but can't be adopted out.

"Until the court case is resolved one way or the other then either--the animals go back to Ms. Smith or they are retained in the county's custody," said Flinkfelt.

Flinkfelt says Smith has indicated she wants some of the animals back and could get them.

After the case hit the news Rep Ron Crimm, R-Louisville, filed a bill that would prohibit a person convicted of animal cruelty in the first degree from owning or possessing animals of the same species for two years. Smith is facing 218 counts of animal cruelty in the second degree. While the proposed law wouldn't change this case, it could impact future ones.

"We've run into cases where we've gotten people for animal cruelty and they're not allowed to have an animal for two years, but then again you go back to the house and they say it belongs to a sibling or a spouse," said Flinkfelt. "This (bill) prevents that."

Rep. Linda Belcher, D-Shepherdsville, jumped in to co-sponsor after a case in both Jefferson and Bullitt County involving 25-year-old Alex Phelps. Police say he bought cats off craigslist and tortured them, claiming he was doing medial research. He is facing eight charges for that.  

"I hope that this (bill) gets through because I think that it's time we started recognizing the importance of people not doing things like this," said Belcher.  "We're human beings. We shouldn't be treating animals like this."

House Bill 273 is assigned to the Judiciary Committee, but has not gotten a hearing. Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, who is the committee chair tells WAVE 3 it passed out of committee last year, but he is unsure if he will bring it up again this year.

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