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Louisville boy's death prompts ordinance that ties animal abuse, domestic violence cases

WLKY Louisville logo WLKY Louisville 10/27/2021
a man smiling for the camera: kyan higgins © Mya Lancaster kyan higgins

The graphic murder of 10-year-old Kyan Higgins Jr., allegedly at the hands of his mother Kaitlyn Higgins earlier this year, was the catalyst for Metro Councilwoman Paula McCraney's new ordinance that Metro Council members will hear at Thursday’s meeting.

The shooting death of the child is one example of what's known as "The Link."

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Prior to the tragedy, Kaitlyn Higgins received at least three citations for dog neglect, and research shows a link between animal abuse and violence against a person. The District 7 representative aims to save the next child from abuse with this measure.

"Had they investigated, perhaps that little boy would still be alive today," she said. "It's really meant for a serious situation where you have been observing that there is abuse. You need to report that."

Background: Grand Jury indicts Louisville woman charged with killing 10-year-old son

Before reporting abuse, investigators must first be trained on how to identify it. The ordinance, among other things, will:

  • Require LMPD and Metro Animal Services to attend four-to-eight-hour training sessions on "The Link."
  • The agencies will work together on abuse investigations.
  • A fine of up to $500 will be issued if a child witnesses animal abuse.
  • Connect suspected abuse victims and their pets to community resources

Elizabeth Wessels, CEO of the Center for Women and Families, said often victims stay in an abusive relationship to stay connected with their pet.

"One of the reasons is oftentimes their fear that they can't bring their pet with them," Wessels said.

This ordinance will ensure LMAS places animals in a safe environment while the suspected abuse victim finds safe housing.

"This ordinance allows a woman, man, or child that's getting abused to understand that your animal will be taken care of and you can seek help, and help will be provided for you and your companion," McCraney said.

The intent of the ordinance is being well received by those at the Center for Women and Families, but amid staff shortages at state and local agencies, Wessels wonders how they'll handle more CPS reports.

Continuing coverage: Neighbors hold vigil for 10-year-old boy who was allegedly killed by his mother

"If we're going to enact such an ordinance, what are we going to do as a county, city, and as a state to support more workers?" she said. "What we don't want to have happen is reports get made and investigations happen and then nothing happens."

McCraney believes the ordinance is an important step to help protect those who cannot protect themselves. The measure has already passed out of committee, and as it goes to Metro Council Thursday with recommended approval, McCraney is confident the ordinance will pass.

"I'm confident that this will pass because of the nature of the ordinance and how it can indeed save lives," she said.

READ THE FULL STORY:Louisville boy's death prompts ordinance that ties animal abuse, domestic violence cases

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