A bill in the works in Kentucky could require homeowners to put up fences around their swimming pools to keep children out.
House Bill 196, known as the Ava Grace Jenkins Law, would require barriers to be installed on both aboveground and inground pools.
The law’s namesake, a 2-year-old girl, drowned after wandering into a neighbor’s pool in McCracken County in 2019.
Now her parents are on a mission to keep other children safe.
“Our story starts with a beautiful little girl,” Bryan Jenkins said to the House Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection. “We just want to prevent another tragedy from happening to another family. Drowning is a leading cause of death in children under the age of 4. There’s just not enough, I guess, anything put in place to protect not only the homeowner but also the curious children who might get away from you. I mean, from our yard, we can see the pool where she climbed up a ladder and jumped in.”
Rep. Randy Bridges introduced the bill on January 4, 2022, to address swimming pool safety. On Feb. 8, a House Committee approved the bill, and it now moves to the full House of Representatives.
The bill would require homeowners to install a barrier around their pool
Kentucky HB 196, Ava Grace Jenkins pool safety bill within 120 days of the law taking effect.
The fence would need to be at least four feet high, and gates would need to be self-closing and self-latching.
The structure of the aboveground pool itself may be considered a barrier, provided it is at least four feet high and meets additional criteria.
Additionally, homes and garages could form a portion of the fence.
Homeowners who fail to install pool safety barriers could face fines from $50 to $100 per day.
Rep. Bridges said the legislation could save the lives of small children and protect homeowners.
“There are 30 states that have residential pool statutes,” he said. “Three surround Kentucky.”
Two committee members voiced concerns with the bill.
Rep. Al Gentry, asked if, rather than being mandatory, the fines could be left to the discretion of local code enforcement officials, because some homeowners might not realize they were in violation until they were notified.
Rep. Savannah Maddox, the only committee member who voted against the bill, said that building a fence would cost homeowners $15 to $25 per linear foot. She asked Bridges if a kiddie pool or a pond intended for swimming would be included in the definition of swimming pools.
“Where do you draw the line?” Maddox asked.
Rep. Bridges said if small ponds are used for swimming, they would be addressed under this bill.
However, properties larger than 10 acres would be exempt, covering most farms with natural ponds or watering holes for livestock.
“This is, and I will be honest with you, a very lax pool law compared to other states,” Bridges said.
“We are just trying to do what we feel like is the bare minimum to protect these young children.”