Quick Takes

Torture a dog or cat? You could be charged with a felony under proposed Kentucky law  

By: - March 1, 2023 5:38 pm

Ronon is reporter Sarah Ladd’s pet. He was rescued from the Kentucky Humane Society. Ronon likes running, the woods and bacon. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Sarah Ladd)

Under a bipartisan bill that passed a House committee on Wednesday, Kentuckians who torture a dog or cat could be charged with a felony.

House Bill 103 would make it a Class D felony to torture a domestic dog or cat. Two members of the House Standing Committee on Judiciary passed and 15 voted in favor. No one voted against. 

Each act of torture could also be charged separately under this proposed law.  

“Torture” in this context, the bill states, means “the intentional infliction of or subjection to extreme physical pain or serious injury or death to a dog or cat, motivated by intent or wanton disregard that causes, increases, or prolongs the pain or suffering of the dog or cat, including serious physical injury or infirmity.” 

Torture could also refer to abandonment, including locking or tying up a pet until they starve or freeze to death. 

Bill cosponsor Rep. Nick Wilson, R-Williamsburg, told colleagues that there has been a “blind spot” in the state’s laws regarding animal abuse. (Ryan Dotson, R-Winchester, is the primary sponsor, but was not at the committee to present Wednesday). 

“During my experience as a prosecutor, we rarely had good options on combating animal abuse behavior,” said Wilson. “We had a case where a man used an AR-15 to shoot a dog over 30 times. Killed the dog. Under current law, that is a misdemeanor.” 

HB103 would not apply to injuries inflicted on a cat or dog in self defense or in the defense of another pet. 

“The way it sits right now, second offense is a felony,” Wilson said, adding  “I think that you shouldn’t get a free chance to do this.” 


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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky. She has covered everything from crime to higher education. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. At the Kentucky Lantern, she covers mental health, abortion, COVID-19 and more.