FRANKFORT — Kentucky's weak laws against dog fighting have made it a hotbed of breeding and training the animals to fight for gambling purposes, House Speaker Greg Stumbo told a legislative committee Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Committee approved a proposal by Stumbo that would expand the state's Class D felony against dog fighting for gambling to include owning, possessing, keeping, training, selling or transferring "four-legged animals" for fighting purposes.
House Bill 154 now goes to the full House.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, told the committee that Kentucky is the only state without such a law, and that has spurred an increase in breeding and training of fighting dogs in the state, particularly near the West Virginia and Tennessee state lines.
"There's big money in dog fighting," Stumbo said.
He later told reporters that he has heard that one dogfight could generate as much as $10,000.
Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, asked Stumbo why the bill doesn't include similar provisions to protect two-legged animals.
"There's the issue also with cockfighting," Meeks said.
Stumbo said a provision in the last federal farm bill strengthened laws against cockfighting, but that he would have no problem adding two-legged animals to his proposal.
The federal law applies to both blood sports, making it a federal misdemeanor to attend a cockfight or a dogfight, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. It makes bringing a minor to such fights a federal felony, punishable by up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Stumbo said his bill referred to four-legged animals because he has heard of dogs fighting hogs and bears, and he speculated on the possibility of horses and donkeys being trained to fight.
Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, who has pushed similar legislation in recent sessions, said people wouldn't want their children to witness such violence.
Some Republicans on the committee said Stumbo's bill is too broad and should specifically address dogs.
Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, said that under Stumbo's bill, a prosecutor could accuse him of a felony when his dog fights a squirrel.
Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, said any animal fighting for gambling is barbaric, regardless of how many legs they have.
Smiling, he added: "I've never seen a squirrel fight on four legs."
The House committee also heard testimony on a bill to allow some nonviolent felons in the state to ask courts to expunge their records.
Such records can damage some people for life, said the sponsor of House Bill 40, Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville.
The bill specifically expands the scope of expungements to include felonies referred to a grand jury where no indictment ensues, and to Class D felonies.
The proposal did not garner enough votes to get out of committee after several members left before the vote was taken.
Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, said the measure would be considered again when the committee had a quorum.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, released a statement Wednesday saying he supports the legislation.
"I believe that an individual should have the opportunity for redemption," Paul said. "One mistake should not keep someone from being able to seek employment and build a better future. Those who have paid their debt to society should be able to take the steps they need to move forward with their lives."
Last year, Paul introduced a proposal with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, that would allow nonviolent adult ex-offenders to petition a court to seal their criminal record a year after their release from jail.