To the Editor,

For the 12th year in a row, Kentucky took last place, ranking 50th in the country, for animal protection laws. The Department of Agriculture is responsible for overseeing animal shelters and control facilities and ensuring adequate safeguards against animal abuse in our state. Despite facing criticism, my opponent in the race for Agricultural Commissioner has been silent on the issue of animal rights. Unlike my opponent, I refuse to be silenced. As a farmer who has cared for animals all my life, I will fight to shield them from cruelty by allocating ample funding to animal shelters and pushing the state legislature to pass comprehensive laws criminalizing animal abuse. 

I was heartened by the news this past week that the ‘Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act’ passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. But I know this is not enough. I, along with my fellow Kentuckians, will be eagerly awaiting news as to whether the Senate will vote on the common-sense animal protection bill. I believe Kentucky must be at the forefront of the struggle for broader animal protections. 

Currently, Kentucky is the only state in the nation that prohibits veterinarians from reporting potential cases of animal abuse. It wasn’t until May of this year that Gov.Bevin signed into law a bill that criminalizes animal sexual assault. As is proven, violence towards animals often translates into domestic violence, primarily perpetrated against women and children. This measure was an essential, although overdue, action to prevent further abuse. Our local governments have done a wonderful job making up for the state’s failure to pass comprehensive animal protection laws. Pulaski county, and the city of Somerset, have developed independent laws that grant animal control officers extra leeway to combat animal abuse effectively on a small-scale. While this represents an honorable first step towards addressing the problem, our state Congress and Agricultural Department must be working towards constructing broader, more detailed protections. 

In Kentucky, over 55% of our animal shelters are in violation of three or more animal protection laws. It is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture to provide oversight for these operations, a responsibility that has clearly been shirked under my opponent’s administration. The lack of compliance is primarily a result of inadequate shelter funding. Many of these facilities do not receive any county funding and cannot develop informational campaigns on the importance of spaying and neutering animals, which results in overcrowding. As a result, they are forced to rely on volunteers to constitute their workforces. As Commissioner of Agriculture, I will secure funding for these shelters and protect our state’s animals. 

Our leadership in Frankfort clearly does not prioritize the issue of animal rights. In fact, our current governor was photographed at a rally supporting cockfighting. Kentucky is one of the few states with extremely limited laws criminalizing animal fighting, only protecting a few specific species. On multiple occasions, courts have let offenders with over 40 accounts of abuse off with limited or no repercussions. Unlike our governor and current commissioner, I will make sure animal abusers are punished and forced to cede their right to animal ownership in the future. 

Paid political by Robert Conway for Commissioner of Agriculture, David Davila, treasurer

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