KYAWA works to improve animal rights laws
By Brendan Quealy
For the last five years, Kentucky has ranked 56th in the US with regards to their animal protection laws, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) annual study. How can they be 56 with only 50 states? The ALDF includes America’s districts and territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and, of course, Washington, D.C.
This has been a bitter pill to swallow for many in Kentucky’s animal welfare community. Pam Rogers of the Kentucky Animal Welfare Alliance (KYAWA) believes the struggle to improve has been more difficult due to special interest groups. “We keep trying to upgrade our status [with the ALDF],“ says Rogers. “The Alliance is very active but we are fighting against groups that have a lot of money to spend on lobbyists.”
KYAWA, which is a collective force of all the animal welfare agencies in Kentucky, was created in 2000 by Victoria King, current president of the alliance. The group gained momentum in 2002 when a video out of Henry County showed shelter dogs being “euthanized” with guns—and oftentimes not on the first, second, or even third shot.
“That really got everyone united,” says Rogers. “More and more people joined the effort, we used that momentum to have our first Humane Lobby Day.”
According to Rogers, KYAWA’s Humane Lobby Day is one of the biggest in the United States. Representatives from each group meet with state legislators, other officials, and representatives from the other side to talk about what they hope to accomplish in the upcoming months. “The mission is to use our collective voice to help animals—be it through passing legislation or education,” says Rogers. “There was such a need out there, and when we saw the impacts that a collective body can make on legislators, we knew that we were onto something with this.”
Rogers and KYAWA always bring to Humane Lobby Day a dog that had been a victim of the abuse and neglect—just the kind of abuse and neglect KYAWA is lobbying against. By showing one of the victims of animal abuse, KYAWA hopes people will react by putting pressure on legislative decision-makers. “We want legislation to change—especially in a state like Kentucky,” says Rogers. “If you knew it was a felony to break the speed limit, you probably wouldn’t speed. That is what we want to do with animal abuse laws.” Still, Rogers and the rest of the animal welfare community are facing, what she believes, is needless opposition. “A lot of the people that work against [us] are already excluded from the cruelty statutes,” says Rogers. “There is no nefarious plan here. We just want to protect the animals.”
KYAWA was able to successfully make torture a felony on the first offense in 2008, but it was still limited to only dogs and cats. “That was a shame,” says Rogers. “Because I had a case where a filly was hung up and stabbed 97 times with a pitch fork. The animal lived, but the person was only fined.”
“These kind of people are a danger not only to animals, but they will perpetrate crimes against humans as well—these predators pick on the weak.” Rogers asks that if you want to make a difference, you should participate in Humane Lobby Day and come out to have your voice heard.
For more information please visit KYAWA.org.