For 11-year-old Tatum Henderson, helping an animal in need was second nature. So, when he saw a malnourished dog lying in the parking lot of the Kentucky Humane Society, he knew he and his parents had to do something. They didn’t expect the rescue story to gain wide-spread attention, but now, hopefully, Kentucky will change its animal rights and welfare laws because of what he did.
Helping A Stranger Isn’t For Everyone
For many people, helping a stranger is the last thing on their mind, especially if that stranger is some random animal lying down in a parking lot. But for 11-year-old Tatum Henderson, helping an animal in need wasn’t even a second thought.
This story starts as one of those “he was at the right place at the right time” tropes. The thing is, the right place at the right time just so happened to be the difference between life and death for one very sick pooch.
Tatum Was Just Bringing Toys To The Shelter
January 29 was just a typical day for Tatum. He had his parents drive him to the Kentucky Humane Society, a local shelter where he planned to donate a bunch of stuffed toys for the animals being housed there.
But what started as a day of giving turned into a day of saving when Tatum spotted something very much out of place in the Human Society’s parking lot. It was a dog. And he didn’t look okay.
He Spotted A Dog In The Parking Lot
In the parking lot of the Kentucky Humane Society, Tatum spotted a dog. The thing was, the poor animal was definitely very sick and was visibly starving. He initially thought the dog was dead.
But after seeing a steady rise and fall of the animal’s chest, the family knew the pooch was holding on for as long as he possibly could. Being an animal lover, Tatum wasn’t going to let his parents drive away without doing something.
It Was Clear The Dog Was Very Malnourished
Tatum wasn’t about to get back into the car. There was a dog in need on the ground. His parents called inside to the front adoption desk. They rushed outside, taking the dog inside for emergency care.
Now, it was nothing more than a waiting game as Tatum and his parents anxiously awaited news on the dog’s wellbeing. They’d never seen this dog before, but its malnourished state was very upsetting.
Ethan Was Going To Need Time To Heal
It took an entire day before the Hendersons received an update on the dog, named Ethan by the Kentucky Humane Society. He was stable but in bad shape. The poor animal was beyond malnourished, and it was going to take some time before he was 100% again.
That didn’t stop the Hendersons from checking in on him, though. Tatum was all about sitting and reading updates on the shelter’s Facebook page.
Slowly, Ethan Made Progress
Even before they knew Ethan’s condition, Tatum was online, checking for updates. According to the Kentucky Humane Society’s Facebook page, “[The Hendersons] watched our Facebook page, and were relieved to see the update on January 30 that Ethan was still alive. They have been following Ethan’s progress every day since then.”
Tatum was pleased to see Ethan was slowly but surely recovering from his malnourishment and various other issues. But there was one thing on his mind.
Someone Wanted To Come Visit
Tatum wanted nothing more than to see Ethan, to make sure he was okay at the Humane Society. Out of sheer love, Tatum’s grandmother reached out to the shelter, asking if it was alright for her grandson to go visit Ethan.
In their Facebook post, the Humane Society said, “A few days ago, Tatum’s grandmother reached out to ask if her grandson could meet Ethan now that he is healthy.”
Tatum Wanted To Check On Ethan In Person
Of course, they couldn’t have been more willing to let the young boy come visit. He was a huge part of Ethan’s rescue story, after all! “We couldn’t agree more and arranged a meeting so Ethan could say a proper “thank you” to Tatum and his family,” the Humane Society posted on their Facebook page.
And because it was about to be Tatum’s 12th birthday, the shelter decided to get him something very special, a “Team Ethan” t-shirt!
Ethan Just Got Stronger And Stronger
Each day, Ethan was healing and becoming stronger. Eventually, he even hit his target weight of 80 pounds! But Ethan was strong, and he wasn’t going to stop there. The Kentucky Humane Society continued to post videos on his recovery.
Eventually, Ethan gained quite the fan club. But the condition that Tatum and his family had found Ethan in is a huge issue in Kentucky, one that the Humane Society has been trying hard to fight.
Kentucky Animal Welfare Isn’t Great
In Kentucky, animal welfare is pretty much the last thing some residents care about, considering the state is pretty low on the totem pole compared to laws in other states in the country.
In an interview, Kentucky State Representative Chris Freeland told WHASII, “I’m just trying to make sure Kentucky moves up the ladder somewhat on our animal welfare rules. I think right now we’re 47th or 49th in the nation…”
House Bill 57 Is A Game Changer
The 2020 Animal Protection U.S. State Laws Rankings Report has come out, stating that out of all 50 states, Kentucky ranks 47th in animal protection laws. Thankfully, Kentucky State Representative Chris Freeland hopes this is going to change.
His mission is for House Bill 57 to pass, making animal torture of any kind a Class D felony. Right now, this is something that’s only considered a Class A misdemeanor in the state of Kentucky.
Ethan Is Just One Of Many Sad Stories, Most Untold
Representative Freeland caught wind of Ethan’s story, stating that it is only one of many that happen within Kentucky’s borders. During an interview with WHASII, Freeland said, “this is really dealing with the worst of the worst types of actions that people may do, and as you know, the story with Ethan is one of many.”
He continued by saying, “many stories are not being reported because people are just discarding animals, not even giving them to authorities.”
Freeland’s Summary Laid It All Out On The Table
It’s a sad truth for the state of Kentucky, one Representative Freeland hopes to change with the introduction of House Bill 57. In a brief summary of the bill, Freeland stated that “torture will include things like crushing and burning, food, water and shelter deprivation or restraint.”
“Restraint will be defined as confining a dog or cat to a finite space where the animal can not escape.” Now, it just needs to pass.
It Will Make People Accountable For Their Actions
The good news is that Representative Freeland believes House Bill 57 has a good chance of passing, especially with the recent coverage brought on by Ethan’s story. His hope is that, if passed, the bill will make people accountable for their actions.
He stated, “[I am] hoping that by making this a felony, it will encourage more people to come forward.” This is 100% a push in the right direction for animal rights in Kentucky.
There’s More Than One Bill Being Brought To The Table
While the bill was introduced before Ethan’s story went public, the Kentucky Humane Society hopes it will be the dog’s legacy, of sorts. He deserves it, too, considering what he went through!
On their Facebook page, the Humane Society even gave a brief shoutout to the bill, saying, “We hope that HB 57 will become Ethan’s legacy!” And House Bill 57 isn’t the only animal rights bill to be considered during the 2021 legislative session.
Animal Rights Bill #2: House Bill 100
Aside from House Bill 57 that plans to “add specific acts to the definition of [animal] torture” to a pre-existing bill and amend it, so the bill is no longer a Class A misdemeanor but a Class D felony, there are two more bills on the docket.
The first being House Bill 100. This bill plans to create new sections in KRS Chapter 525, elaborating on terms laid out in the document.
House Bill 100 Focuses On Officer Accountability
According to WLKY News, in summary, House Bill 100 plans to “Create new sections of KRS Chapter 525 to define terms; require peace officers and animal control officers to serve notice of seizure of an animal subjected to cruelty…”
“create procedure for seizing agencies to petition a court to order payment of animal care costs by owner; establish penalties; prohibit the destruction of seized animals, except for humane reasons determined by veterinarian.”
Animal Rights Bill #3: Senate Bill 82
On top of turning a misdemeanor into a felony with House Bill 57, House Bill 100 is, in simple terms, also making sure control and police officers are accountable when they seize an animal from its home for whatever reason.
The final bill on the docket is Senate Bill 82. This particular bill also wants to add sections to pre-existing documents. Instead of officers, though, this bill focuses on local government and breed restrictions.
Senate Bill 82 Frowns On Breed Restrictions
According to WLKY News, Senate Bill 82 will “Create a new section of KRS 258.095 to 258.500 to enable local governments to legislate enforcement action for dog and welfare safety, so long as that the ordinance, regulation, or policy does not regulate ownership of a dog based on its breed or perceived breed and is consistent with state law.”
At the end of the day, each bill is important. More than one shelter and animal lover, including Tatum, hopes they’ll all be passed.
Tatum Did So Much For Ethan And Animals All Over Kentucky
It’s amazing to think these bills got a bit more publicity solely because of the actions of an 11-year-old boy. But Tatum wasn’t about to let an innocent animal suffer in the parking lot of a shelter that had the means to help.
The world can only hope more people will be as heroic and Tatum, taking care of those who aren’t able to take care of themselves, no matter if they’re a stranger or not. As of March 2021, Ethan’s even found his fur-ever home!