Animal advocates have been of the opinion that Ohio’s animal cruelty laws (or lack thereof) are entirely too lax compared to those of other states. Animal abuse is currently a felony in 45 states, none of which are Ohio, and it seems that the amount of animal neglect, abuse, and brutal murder cases are rising, with the consequences being fines and 30 days or so in jail, if the crime is extreme. This seems to not be deterring people from starving their dogs, shooting and leaving dogs in the park, and shooting kittens in someone’s backyard because they were living outdoors. Animal rescuers deal with abuse cases on a daily basis, spending hundreds of dollars on healthcare for those animals who need burns healed, antibiotics, IVs, and infections treated. Many of these animals die in the first day of being rescued, some make it weeks before submitting to their illnesses or injuries, some make it months, and very few are lucky enough to be cured and find a good family to help rehabilitate them. Puppy mills, backyard breeders, and cruel individuals have all caused harm to animals and gotten off with a slap on the wrist.
Animal abuse felony bills have tried to be passed in Ohio before, but they have struggled because people have been concerned with the affect it would have on farms and agriculturalists. Dick Goddard decided to take a different route when he start Goddard’s Law. Animal lovers have supported Goddard’s Law and protested for it since it was announced in early April. This bill specifically leaves out livestock and only applies to “”any animal that is kept inside a residential dwelling and any dog or cat regardless of where it is kept, including a pet store” (Miller). Now he has a Cleveland legislator’s backing. This may help the bill get passed, finally protecting the animals of Ohio. Representative Bill Patmon “sponsoring a bill that makes knowingly injuring or killing a companion animal or depriving it of food, water or shelter a fifth-degree felony, punishable by six months to a year in jail” (Miller). The support of joint-sponsor Barbara Sears has assisted in getting the bill assigned a number by the clerk’s office in the Ohio House of Representatives. The bill has been assigned number 274. This bill would make owners, kennel owners or workers, and anyone who harms an animal responsible to pay the consequences for the animal to whom they did damage. For owners and any random individual, harming or neglecting an animal would be counted as a first or second degree misdemeanor, while the death of an animal at their hands would be a fifth degree felony. Kennel owners and workers have it a little bit harder, with failing to provide food, water, or shelter landing them with a first degree misdemeanor or fifth degree felony charge if the animal dies, and a fifth degree felony for all other acts of cruelty.
Backers of the bill of course argue that the current Ohio animal abuse punishments are not even close to enough to avoid or punish animal abuse. Critics of the bill think it is too harsh, but the facts are undeniable. Violent crimes against humans usually have a connection to violent crimes against animals in the past. “A 2001-2004 study by the Chicago Police Department “revealed a startling propensity for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward human victims.” Of those arrested for animal crimes, 65% had been arrested for battery against another person” (Humane Society of the United States). The Humane Society reports that studies have also found that between 71% and 83% of women entering domestic violence shelters have reported their abusers killing a family pet or other animal. “Of 36 convicted multiple murderers questioned in one study, 46% admitted committing acts of animal torture as adolescents. And of seven school shootings that took place across the country between 1997 and 2001, all involved boys who had previously committed acts of animal cruelty” (Humane Society of the United States). These facts cannot be ignored. Nor can compassion. Humans, as the most intelligent and organized of the world’s mammals, have a responsibility to protect other living creatures. Simple compassion protects people from being able to see innocent animals suffer, and people who are devoid of this compassion with animals tend to be devoid of this compassion toward people as well.
To support Bill 274, or Goddard’s Law, write a letter to your representative and explain to them why Ohio’s current animal abuse laws are not enough to protect innocent creatures or even the people who will eventually be hurt. The majority of states support the act of making animal cruelty a felony, and it is about time that Ohio jumps on board and protects innocent animals and tries to prevent further crimes.