Rural Animal Owners Group Sounds Alarm on Proposed ‘Red Flag Law’ in Kentucky for ‘Vicious’ Dogs

An organization dedicated to protecting the rights of animal owners in Kentucky and Texas, the Rural Animal Owners Alliance, is bringing to light a proposed Kentucky law that could have significant ramifications for property rights and other vital issues. The bill in question is HB188, which details procedures for dealing with dogs determined to be “vicious” by a court of law.

The bill introduces procedures for handling cases in which a defendant alleged to have violated the law by harboring a vicious dog is found incompetent to stand trial.

The proposed legislation also outlines consequences for owners whose dogs are deemed to be vicious. These include destroying the animal or seizing it if it attacks a person or injures livestock on another person’s property: “Any person, without liability, may kill or seize any dog which is observed attacking any person.”

The bill would also allow a vicious dog to be returned to its owner, provided that it is “confined in a locked enclosure at least seven feet high or a locked kennel run with a secured top.”

Finally, the measure sets forth legal penalties for those found to have harbored a vicious dog.

This means anyone who runs afoul of this law could be subject to fines and ordered to pay “all damages for personal injuries resulting from the bite of the dog, cat, or ferret.”

On the surface, the bill might appear to be a method for ensuring public safety and accountability for dog owners. However, there are some issues with the proposal related to Constitutional rights. The RAOA notes that it creates “a hearing for the removal and banning of dog ownership or possession in cases where a person incompetent to stand trial is charged with harboring a vicious dog.”

“This bill screams red flag laws, but instead of guns, it’s using ‘vicious dogs,’” the group pointed out. The organization laid out some other problems with the bill:

The RAOA also highlights the issue of property rights, pointing out that “[d]ogs are considered personal property under the law, and their destruction or the restriction on ownership could be seen as a deprivation of property.” This could be particularly problematic given the vague, ambiguous language in the bill related to the definition of a “vicious dog.” There is a chance that people could have their dogs unjustly seized or killed, if the legislation becomes law in Kentucky.

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