For years, animal cruelty laws in Kentucky have ranked dead last on the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Animal Protection Laws Rankings. But they could be getting a boost: Earlier this month, a bill was introduced that would stiffen Kentucky animal cruelty penalties for those convicted of such crimes there.

Prefiled on Aug. 15 by Rep. Kevin Bratcher (R-Louisville), BR 121 would amend Kentucky’s animal cruelty statute by upgrading the penalty for animal cruelty in the second degree from a Class A misdemeanor for the first and any subsequent offense, to a Class D felony for a second or subsequent offense.

Karen Gustin, executive director of the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, in Nicholasville, called the proposed legislation a “step in the right direction,” but questioned whether it would reduce the number of equine cruelty cases statewide.

“Local law enforcement and county attorney offices need to be willing to prosecute animal cruelty cases, and raising the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony may make it easier for that to happen,” she said.

The bill would also establish a registry of those convicted of animal cruelty crimes in the state.

Kentucky lawmakers will consider the legislation in January.