ALDF Calls For Sweeping Reform in Laws Protecting Bluegrass State HorsesApril 30th, 2008
Epidemic of Horse Neglect Cases Plague State Where Animal Protection Laws Rank Last in the Nation
LOUISVILLE – For two minutes at Churchill Downs, the eyes of the world will be on Kentucky--but away from the roses and mint juleps, Kentucky horses often fall victim to grossly inadequate legal protections, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), which is calling on the state legislature to institute sweeping reforms in its laws protecting horses and other animals. According to a 2007 report released by ALDF, Kentucky ranks dead last in the nation in its laws protecting animals.
A recent horse neglect case in Harrison County highlights the stark contrast between the thoroughbred treatment of Kentucky’s prized Derby racers and the countless horses suffering in rural counties without adequate legal protection. Of the over 30 neglected horses--three of whom were tattooed thoroughbreds who had been "run out"--16 were discovered dead on the property of defendants Haskell and Dinah Risner of Cynthiana by the time state police finally executed a search warrant in early November 2007. County Attorney Charles W. (Bill) Kuster would only authorize an "on-site" seizure--meaning that the suffering horses were left in the defendants’ care after their arrest and release, after which an additional horse died due to an untreated parasitic infestation. Despite ALDF’s offers of assistance throughout the case, the horses were never seized from the defendants, who ultimately were given a slap-on-the-wrist plea agreement.
Among the reforms ALDF is actively seeking support for during the next legislative session are:
- Establish basic standards of care for the treatment of animals (such standards, should include, at a minimum, requirements for adequate food, water, shelter and veterinary care);
- Create an express statutory duty requiring law enforcement officials to investigate, arrest and prosecute animal cruelty cases (including a duty to seize animals, rather than leaving them behind to continue to suffer under the post-arrest "care" of the defendant);
- Establish an option
to permit citizens to apply for a search warrant in animal neglect and
cruelty cases, which, if approved by the court, must, in turn, be
executed by the sheriff.
In addition to the Harrison County
case, an epidemic of horse cruelty cases across the state have
highlighted the weaknesses in Kentucky’s laws, including recent cases
in Rockcastle County, Rowan County, and Jessamine County.
"It’s a sad irony that while Kentucky promotes--and profits from--its
world-renowned horse race, horses are literally starving to death
throughout the state, often in plain sight of local law enforcement,"
says Scott Heiser, director of ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program. "Until
the legislature and local sheriffs and prosecutors begin to take animal
protection seriously, the home of the Derby will continue to hold the
dubious title of ‘best state in the nation to be an animal abuser.’"
ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing interests of animals through the legal system. ALDF’s state rankings report and a free downloadable version of the complete compendium of state anti-cruelty laws on which the report is based are available on ALDF's website.