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Council approves ordinance linking animal abuse and violence

The ordinance requires first responders be trained to recognize signs of interpersonal violence or neglect while on animal abuse cases.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thursday, Metro Council approved an ordinance linking animal abuse to interpersonal violence. Councilwoman Paula McCraney (D-7) and Councilwoman Marilyn Parker (R-18) proposed the ordinance. 

In a statement, McCraney said studies show when an animal is being abused, there is a strong likelihood that a person in that home is also being abused or harmed. 

Under the ordinance, Louisville Metro Animal Services officers and Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers responding to reports of animal abuse must report "reasonable suspicion of interpersonal violence" to LMPD, Child Protection Services and Animal Protection Services. 

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Officers would also be required to be trained on the connections between animal abuse and crimes against people. 

Former LMPD detective Joye Keeley worked on the ordinance and founded the Kentucky Link Coalition, working to research the link and find solutions. 

Keeley said Metro Council has an opportunity Thursday to set a precedent for Kentucky, telling WHAS11 the state lags in laws surrounding animal abuse and violence.

"You need to expand the parameters beyond the call for service, that's just good law enforcement," she said. "We don't have any laws ordinance local or state reflecting this link." 

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The ordinance cites an FBI study that found in about 60% of animal abuse cases interpersonal violence was also involved. The ordinance also states women in domestic violence shelters are 11 times more likely to report that their partner had hurt or killed a pet.

In a statement, McCraney said a recent case in Louisville drove home the need for the ordinance.

"Earlier this year, the community witnessed the horrifying story unfold of the young boy killed and put into a trunk of a car in the Taylor Berry neighborhood. It became clear during the investigation that neighbors were suspicious something was going on inside the home, because they believed the family’s dog was being neglected. Records show Metro Animal Services cited the boy’s mother for animal neglect in the past," she wrote.

"In an effort to prevent something like this case happening again, this ordinance would build another layer of protection for animals and people by educating officers what to look for and triggering a deeper investigation.”

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Jessica DeJesus lives just down the street from where the boy, named KJ, lived. She organized a vigil in his honor, and at the time, neighbors told WHAS11 they were concerned for animals in the home. 

DeJesus said that should have been a sign. 

"If a person is willing to hurt an animal they're willing to hurt their child or a child or anyone," she said. 

Keeley said if the ordinance passes, education on the signs of abuse and neglect would be the most crucial element. 

"Everything comes down to education, everything," she said. "You cannot separate people and animals anymore and the more loved they are and the more vulnerable."

The ordinance passed the Public Safety Committee last week with a recommendation for approval by the full council. 

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Contact reporter Grace McKenna at GMcKenna@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter. 

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