COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – State Senators Jay Hottinger and Sean O’Brien have introduced a bill into the Ohio Senate that increases penalties for knowingly causing serious harm to a companion animal.
It is taking a previous law and enhancing the penalties, not creating any new violations. Simply put, if you are already breaking the law now, you will still be breaking the law if the bill is passed. The big difference will be in what you could be facing in the form of punishment.
The lawmakers responsible for the current bill to enhance penalties don’t think the punishments fit the crime after sentencing reform. In some cases, according to Sen. Hottinger, first-time offenders are being charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor when it comes to this crime; which carries up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Subsequent or more egregious offenses could result in a 5th-degree felony, which carries no mandatory prison time.
O’Brien and Hottinger shared stories of the kinds of abuse they are targeting with their bill.
“We’re not talking about mild abuse here. We’re talking about, you know, killing your pet and doing it in just some really horrific ways,” said Hottinger. “We have instances where people have skinned their dogs alive and watched them die. We’ve had instances where people have beat their dogs, skinned their dogs, and nailed them to a wall, and watched them die.”
As hard as that may be to believe, just last month on the 6th of September there was an incident in East Cleveland. A man is accused of trapping a dog in a crate, dousing it with accelerant, and setting it on fire. Pictures of the damage to the dog were shared on the East Cleveland Police Department Facebook page.
Ultimately, the injuries to the dog were so severe it had to be euthanized. O’Brien says, up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine is nowhere good enough. The man also faces the 5th-degree felony charge and a 1st-degree misdemeanor charge of arson.
“Most of our, if not all of our, constituents are appalled by that behavior, and want those people punished; that’s the purpose of this bill,” said O’Brien.
The bill is meant to protect humans as much as it protects animals. According to the senators, studies have shown a troubling trend. “If you’re doing atrocious things to an animal, the high degree you’re probably doing atrocious to human beings as well,” said Hottinger.
Still, the bill may have opposition. Three years ago, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney’s Association opposed legislation to make it a felony to knowingly cause serious harm to a companion animal. They have not said yet if they will oppose the current bill as well.