Politics

A bill intended to curb dogfighting in Kentucky is scheduled to be heard by a state House committee on Wednesday.

The legislation differs from a bill the Senate approved two weeks ago that critics say would make it more difficult to prosecute those who use dogs for fighting.

Rep. Wilson Stone, a Democrat from Scottsville and sponsor of the House bill, said his legislation is designed to tighten anti-dogfighting rules. The bill would make it a class D felony to knowingly own, possess, breed, train or sell a dog “for the purpose of that dog being used to fight another dog for pleasure or profit.”

“Any language that would make it difficult or would make it prohibitive to prosecute is counterproductive to what we’re trying to do,” Stone said.

Dogfighting is already a class D felony in Kentucky, but prosecutors say catching dogfighters in the act is sometimes difficult.

A bill approved unanimously by the Senate earlier this session would ban owning or using dogs for the “primary purpose” of dogfighting. It was substituted for a previous version that had been considered a compromise between animal rights activists and hunters who use dogs.

Animal rights activists say the bill the Senate approved would create loopholes that would legalize dogfighting for some.

The Senate bill, which has support from hunters’ organizations, would exempt owners with dogs engaged in hunting and activities sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club “or other accredited national organizations.”

Stone’s version of the bill would exempt farmers who use dogs to protect livestock. Although it doesn’t include the exemptions in the Senate bill, he said his version wouldn’t trample on hunters’ activities.

“I would say today there’s no intention of any of that from this legislation,” he said.

Doug Morgan, president of the Kentucky Houndsmen Association, said in a phone interview last week that the original version of the Senate bill was obstructive.

“It would have interfered with legitimate sports activities. It could’ve been used to stop us from hunting with dogs,” Morgan said.

Morgan couldn’t be reached to comment on the House version of the bill Tuesday afternoon.

Alex Gaddis, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Jefferson County, said the new House version of the bill would allow him to prosecute people who use their dogs for dogfighting.

“From the perspective of a prosecutor who thinks in terms of proving a case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, I can use this,” Gaddis said of the bill.

Gaddis said the Senate version was vague because it would be difficult to prove a dog’s “primary purpose” is for fighting.

“Theoretically, someone who had a dog that was a guard dog six days out of the week and it only fought one day out of the week, well, that dog’s primary purpose would be a guard dog,” Gaddis said.

Stone said he’s adding the federal definition of dogfighting to his bill. The legislation will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.