PADUCAH (WSIL) — Listening to her phone bark out a ringtone of the hit 2000 single, "Who Let The Dogs Out," by Baha Men, it’s clear that Terry Vannerson loves dogs.
They’re the reason that Vannerson– executive director of the McCracken County Humane Society– became emotional when the society took in more than 40 chihuahuas that were found living in filthy conditions.
"A lot of people say, ‘It’s just a dog,’" Vannerson said. "The animal welfare has changed so much. They’re like family now."
Congress passed a bill this week that would change federal laws on animal cruelty.
The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act would impose fines of violators and a prison sentence of up to seven years. It’s been sent to the president’s desk where it’s expected to be signed into law.
McCracken County sheriff Matt Carter says he’s seen an increase in animal cruelty crimes in the county.
"It’s something that I would say is becoming a little more common unfortunately," Carter said. "It seems that you see somewhat of a consistency of cruelty to animal cases arise maybe more-so than a few years back."
Vannerson believes the bill could prevent people from abusing animals and hurting people.
"If they start doing it with animals what would make the difference to a child or a spouse or a partner," Vannerson said.
In Illinois, animal abuse is treated as a misdemeanor but is bumped up to a felony in certain cases. In Kentucky, animal abuse is considered a crime when the mistreatment results in the animal’s injury.
According to a 2018 report by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Kentucky ranked last in animal protection laws. Vannerson hopes the bill will be signed and act as a step towards punishing animal abusers.
"I hope that the bill will trickle down into our community," Vannerson said.