Crime & Punishment in Kentucky

Posted by Stephan Otto, ALDF's Director of Legislative Affairs on October 26, 2009

It is exceedingly rare to hear anything positive regarding animals and Kentucky law. Due to its glaring lack of adequate animal protection laws, the Bluegrass State has had the unenviable distinction as "best state in the country to be an animal abuser" for the past two years in a row. The state moved even further backwards this year when it passed a poorly drafted bill that inadvertently restricts a veterinarian’s ability to report suspected animal abuse.

Yet despite the continuing legal and political morass surrounding the state’s animal protection laws, we are happy to commend the prosecutors of Kenton County who were the first to successfully utilize the only animal protection law strengthened in Kentucky last year, when they recently secured a felony conviction against a man charged with stabbing two cats to death.

Dubbed "Romeo’s Law" (in honor of a yellow Labrador who was caught on tape being savagely attacked by a Pulaski County man), the 2008 law makes it a felony to torture a domestic cat or dog, if the torture results in serious physical injury or death of the animal. Prior to the law’s passage, a first offense–no matter how violent–had been a misdemeanor.

According to a published report at television station WCPO, the defendant in the case, Russell Swigart, broke into a former co-worker’s condo and stabbed to death her two cats "Mr. Frank" and "Piggy":

Prosecutors say Swigart also sent her text messages telling her what he was doing to the cats.

"She had not talked to Russell Swigart for months and months before this happened and out of the blue she was getting very alarming text messages after he had broken into her apartment and tortured her cats got messages taunting her about that," said Justin Sanders, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney.

Swigart faces up to 12 years in prison when he is sentenced in November. Ten years for the burglary charge and two years for the torturing and killing of the cats.

"I think that everybody now should be aware not only was the law enacted – Romeo’s law – but that it will be enforced in the Commonwealth and certainly Kenton County," said Sanders.

A well-deserved salute to prosecutor Justin Sanders for taking crimes against animals seriously, and showing that animal abusers in Kentucky will not always find refuge from the law – at least not in Kenton County.

12 thoughts on “Crime & Punishment in Kentucky

  1. Kyra says:

    This is a great improvement…for Kentucky. However, I am still a little bit disgusted that burglary gets 5 times more punishment than torturing and murdering two innocent cats. Someone who could do such a thing to creatures so innocent deserves so much worse.

  2. Maria says:

    Way to go, Justin Sanders! You make the Commonwealth proud.

  3. L says:

    Thank you, Justin, for your hard work and determination! I wish there were more lawyers like you!
    Thanks again! You rock!

  4. winter bray says:

    i cant believe that kentucky passed the law where veternarians don’t have to report animal abuse. kentucky should care for our aniamls way more than what they are.that guy that stabbed those poor helpless cats should gotten longer than what he did and good going justin fight for whats right for our kentucky animals

  5. Susan Harris says:

    Bath County Kentucky just had a horrible case of abuse where a Golden Retriever was shot and hung with a logging chain from a John Deere tractor. The poor dog was then displayed on a road that was traveled by school busses for all to see. The killer will not be prosecuted because of our archaic, insane and inept laws and our lawmakers who refuse to do anything. I am a resident of Bath County and out of 11,000 plus people, I have had exactly 3 offers of help. The support and outrage has come from OUT of the County and mostly from OUT of the State. We need someone to help us once and for all. I hope this email reaches the right people. Thank you.

  6. Linda says:

    Thank you to Justin Sanders, hopefully this sends a message to others that cruelty is never acceptable.

  7. m tanner says:

    Thank you Justin. Keep up the great work.

  8. bondbabe says:

    Americans claim to be civilized, yet I believe that no other country in the world is as evil as we are. What we do to animals is abhorrent!

  9. Cheryl Cross says:

    Thank you Justin Sanders.

  10. Alan says:

    Not faces up to, but WILL get !! The punishment must fit the crime !!!

  11. Jenene Beverly says:

    Thankyou Justin Sanders for caring. Im an animal lover and they have to few people to fight for them. I dont know what it will take for people to realize we are hurting ourselves when we let abuse to any animals or humans go on. We are causing many animals to become extinct along with plants and herbs etc. We kill for a few dollars we harm with no regret.We are the caretakers of this planet and we are fast destroying all we touch.All life is precious and deserves love. We need so many more people like you who can stand up and speak out. God Bless you and be with you. Keep up the good fight. Jenene Beverly

  12. Olivia says:

    Justin, you are amazing. I appreciate your determination in bringing that horrible man to where he belongs-jail. I am a little dissapointed that he got 8 years more time for breaking in than torturing and murdering Mr Frank and Piggy. I guess lots of people still think peoples possesions are more important than innocent lives-as long as they’re not human lives. I want that to change. So once again, I thank Justin for his hard work.

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