Ohio lawmakers consider increasing animal cruelty penalties to include mandatory prison


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOWK) – Ohio 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.​

The bill takes a previous law and enhances the penalties, without creating any new violations. The lawmakers responsible for the current bill to enhance penalties say they do not think the punishments fit the crime after sentencing reform.​

Hottinger says that in some cases first-time offenders are being charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor for the crime; which currently 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. The senators 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.”​

Last month on September 6, an incident in East Cleveland involved a man accused of trapping a dog in a crate, dousing it with accelerant, and setting it on fire.​ The injuries to the dog were so severe that it had to be euthanized. The man also faces the 5th-degree felony charge and a 1st-degree misdemeanor charge of arson. O’Brien says that up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine is nowhere good enough. ​

“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, 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.

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