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House Bill 20 seeks to strengthen Kentucky's animal torture statute

Ethan the dog
Posted at 4:53 PM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 17:42:44-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — House Bill 20 aims to stop people from treating other animals the way internet sensation, Ethan the dog, was treated.

In February 2021, Ethan was close to dying when he was dumped outside the Kentucky Humane Society.

His story and image captured the hearts, minds, and generosity of people across the country.

Altogether, KHS Vice President of Outreach, Alisa Gray, said people have donated about $100,000 in Ethan's name.

"It's humbling and it's just incredible and shocking that so many people gravitated toward him and his story," Gray said.

Tomorrow marks one year since Ethan was adopted. With all the love and support he received over the past year, and an incredible veterinary team, of course, he is now better than ever.

"He's huge!" Gray said. "He's so so adorable. He's just a big lover. When he runs his whole body shakes. He went from around 37 pounds to know over 120 pounds. It's amazing."

Now, KY Representative Chris Freeland wants to prevent anyone else to treat a dog or cat the same way Ethan was treated.

He wrote and sponsored HB 20, which gives the current torture statute more teeth by raising "intentional gross neglect" from a misdemeanor to a felony.

"Anyone who would intentionally tie up an animal and find pleasure in watching it starve to death or all the things that the poor dog or cat would go through, I think that rises to what a felony is considered," Freeland said.

He said the intention of the bill is not to put people in jail. In fact, he said the jail time is similar for the misdemeanor and felony. Rather, he hopes it causes someone to think twice before harming an animal.

"Just take the animals to the shelter or give it to someone else," he said. "Don't tie it up or put it in a cage that it can't even stand up in or turn around in just to watch it suffer and die and go through all that agony."

And that way, the animal can be loved, as it's meant to be.

This is the third time Freeland has tried to get a version of this bill passed. This time around, he said the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association helped to tweak the language in the bill, and he hopes the third time's a charm.

He thinks it's off to a good start since it passed unanimously through the committee. Now, it needs to be taken up by the House of Representatives.