OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) Kentucky lawmakers are proposing changes to who would be responsible for paying for care of animals involved in abuse or neglect cases.

A bill, filed for next year’s session, would move the burden to a person accused of abuse or neglect.

The bill, recently pre-filed by State Representatives Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell, and Cherlynn Stevenson, D-Lexington, would allow a judge to decide whether someone accused of abuse or neglect should pay for an animal’s care during the legal process, or require an animal shelter to handle the cost. Currently in Kentucky, the cost is largely covered by the shelters.

“We hope that if animals are being neglected or being abused that folks knowing that if their animals are taken, they are still going to incur having to take care of those, may be a deterrent,” said State Rep. Stevenson.

She says the bill allows animal shelters to petition a judge to require those accused of animal abuse, neglect or other related charges, to pay for care during the legal process. Stevenson says caring for some animals over long periods of time can be costly.

“Too often, those become really long, drawn out sometimes over a couple of years and costs can get really, really up there. We have seen as much as 80,000 for the care,” she explained.

The hearing must be done within 10-15 days of an animal seizure, and a judge must rule that the seizure was lawful at the time, and the burden of proof must be on the agency charging the accused.

“We believe that there’s a lot of due process built in to the bill for the owners. They have to be notified. They have to get an expedited trial,” says State Rep. Stevenson.

If the owner fails to appear at the hearing or can’t cover the payments, the animals can be forfeited. If the request fails, then the animals must be returned to their owner, who won’t have to cover cost.

Similar bills were introduced during the last legislative session earlier this year, but those did not become law.

(This story was originally published on October 12, 2021)