The Kentucky State Capitol went to the dogs, this afternoon, and the animal lovers followed.
Of all the canines wagging their tails in the lobby, none drew a bigger audience than Romeo. In some ways, Romeo has become the poster pup for animal abuse cases. The law, nicknamed "Romeo's Law," changed animal abuse from a misdemeanor to a felony, but these activists want more.
In comes House Bill 273, where "the owner if they're charged with cruelty will have to give up their animal," explained Bobbie Hudnall of S.O.A.R. (Speak Out And Rescue).
Also under this bill, the convicted abuser will not be allowed to own a pet of the same species abused for at least two years, preventing any repeat abuse cases.
"This absence of a protection for them [animals], the fact that they could return [to the alleged abuser], undercuts the very reason for having animal cruelty laws, in the first place," stated Carolyn Schnurr of the A.S.P.C.A.
"Statistics show that once someone abuses an animal, the likelihood of them doing it again is very great," added Courtney Girdler of the Pulaski County Humane Society.
"They [abusers] are doing it to other animals, they are doing it to children, they are doing it to the elderly," said an animated Rebecca Eaves with the Shamrock Foundation.
Kentucky, for the last five years, has been the number one state with the most animal abuse cases, and these advocates are hoping stricter laws will help remove that blemish. As one speaker pointed out, Kentucky is one of the few states that does not have a bonding and forfeiture law for animal abuse cases.
"Right now, I feel like it's just a slap on the wrist versus getting a real punishment that they deserve," said Hudnall of increasing the severity of the punishment for convicted animal abusers.
"Education is the key to any improvement," stated Cecilia Mitchell, an animal rights activist.
House Bill 273 is in only in the House Judiciary Committee, and has not been called for a vote, but it's already gaining a lot of attention.