ALDF Calls For Sweeping Reform in Laws Protecting Bluegrass State Horses

Posted on April 30, 2008

Epidemic of Horse Neglect Cases Plague State Where Animal Protection Laws Rank Last in the Nation

– 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.

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.


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