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Bill Calls for Harsher Punishment for Animal Abusers
DAYTON -- There have been a number of high-profile animal cruelty cases in recent months. It gave us pause because a number of convicted abusers have gotten little jail time, if any. But how does Ohio's law compare to other states?
You've likely noticed dogs outside, chained their entire lives to dilapidated shelters, often in extreme temperatures.
"It is frustrating for me to come out every single day and see dogs outside in this cold. This dog lives its life out here", says Humane
Officer Sheila Marquis.
Let's take a look at Butch, who is 7 years old. On this day, the temperature got down to -6 degrees. Butch's guardian is Charles Lucas, and he was asked if Butch has always lived out here.
Lucas replies, "Yes."
"Do you worry about him suffering in the cold?"
Lucas responds, "If you look inside his house, he's got so much insulation, he's probably warmer than I am."
According to state code, Charles is in compliance. But Marquis says the state code is strong enough to prevent dogs from suffering.
We asked Marquis, "Have you come across dogs that have literally been frozen to death?"
Marquis answers, "Yes, and it's horrible."
One Dayton woman was shown on video beating her dog with a broom stick. She pleaded guilty to animal cruelty, but the judge suspended her entire six-month sentence, so no jail time was served.
"It's hard, because it sends a message to the community that it isn't that bad," says Brian Weltge, director of the Humane Society of Greater Dayton. "It's very common for the judicial system not to charge maximum penalties in animal cruelty cases."
Case in point: In Middletown, Jeremy Temple was accused of chaining his dog to a tree and starving it for four years. The German shepherd was found extremely emaciated and covered with fleas. Temple spent just five days in jail and was fined $150.
According to the Humane Society of the US, Ohio ranks 30th nationwide for animal protection laws and is one of only six states where animal cruelty of companion animals is not a first-offense felony. In Ohio, it's a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
A number of other states mandate significantly more prison time and stiffer fines. For instance, in Alabama, Arizona and Texas, the maximum jail time is 10 years, in Pennsylvania it's 7 years, in Indiana it's 3 years and West Virginia it's 5 years. The maximum fine for animal cruelty in Colorado is $500,000; Arizona $150,000; Michigan $20,000 and Kentucky, $10,000.
However, Ohio has made strides in recent years, improving laws on puppy mills and exotic animals as pets. And most recently, in December, a bill passed the State House of Representatives that would clamp down on the most egregious acts of animal cruelty.
But it may be another uphill battle. Seven felony cruelty bills have died in recent years, largely because of opposition from agricultural lobbyists.
Weltge says, "We want strong laws to hold people accountable for the things they do to animals that are bad."
Animal advocates say in addition to a first-offense felony for abusers, they would also like to see anti-tethering legislation for dogs similar to 19 other states.
House Bill 274 will be heading to the Ohio Senate for a vote.
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