The Ohio House has passed a bill that would increase the penalties for animal abuse.
The bill passed with bi-partisan support. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.
The bill would, in most cases, make it a low level felony to abuse a companion dog or cat. Right now, most of these cases are misdemeanors but this would make it so people who abuse, torture, or kill an animal…..or deprive it of food and shelter…could receive up to a year in jail. This legislation is known as the Goddard bill, named after long time Cleveland meteorologist Dick Goddard, who has advocated for animal welfare for a long time. Democratic House Representative John Barnes says it’s time for the legislature to bring Ohio’s animal cruelty law in line with most other states.
Barnes – “Dogs are God’s creations and as part of the life cycle, they should be respected.”
Republican State Representative Jim Buchy says abuse of companion dogs and cats cannot be tolerated.
Buchy – “We obviously have to have this law passed so that we can get to those scoundrels that abuse and torture animals.”
Democratic State Representative Nick Celebreeze points out people who abuse other people often abuse pets to maintain power over their owners, to turn them into human victims.
Celebreeze – “In fact, studies show that anywhere from 25 to 40% of battered women are unable to escape that situation primarily because they are concerned about what would happen to their pet if they were to leave that house.”
And Republican Representative Dave Hall notes hurting animals is often a gateway for criminals to start hurting other people.
Hall – “What we’ve seen studies are after they’ve done things to animals, they are more likely to ramp it up.”
But some representatives, like Republican Representative Lynn Wachtman, worry this bill goes too far.
Wachtman – “A prosecutor could, I know we like to trust their judgment but I would not like to give them the judgment of charging a person with a felony who for instance, may shoot a neighbor’s dog that is coming over the maul their dog or something or kill their cat.”
Republican Terry Boose says it’s important to remember people in rural areas of Ohio often relate to their dogs and cats differently.
Boose – “Some of our pets in rural areas have maybe a little bit bigger role than just being your best friend or the person you can lay with when you are sick or meet you at the door. It might be the cats that are out in the barn, catching the mice. It might be the dogs that are helping around the farm. And my concern is that some of these definitions are just not tight enough.”
But Democratic Representative Bill Patmon responds to that concern head on.
Patmon – “Our intent in this is to make sure, darn sure, that the most powerful and productive industry in the state of Ohio, which is 70%, our farmers, are protected. This is mainly an urban problem and this bill addresses that and that only.”
The bill has passed the Ohio house 83 to 8. It now goes to the Ohio senate.