Ohio's penalty for cruelty to animals isn't very tough compared to other states.A first-time offender in Ohio only faces a possible conviction of a first-degree misdemeanor or up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail ' if convicted of prohibitions concerning companion animals, such as a dog or cat.
Ohio's abuse law not toughest
First-time offenders in Ohio will likely face misdemeanor.
By Ed Richter
Ohio's penalty for cruelty to animals isn't very tough compared to other states.
A first-time offender in Ohio only faces a possible conviction of a first-degree misdemeanor or up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail if convicted of prohibitions concerning companion animals, such as a dog or cat.
A check with the Humane Society of the United States notes most of the 42 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia that have animal cruelty offenses on the books make it a felony for a first offense.
The toughest penalties in the nation include Louisiana's maximum of 10 years in prison and $25,000 fine; Oregon's maximum fine of $100,000 and five years in prison; and Arizona's maximum of one year in prison and maximum fine of $150,000. Colorados prison terms vary from 12 to 18 months or one to three years and a fine that can range from $1,000 to $100,000. Alabama has a maximum fine of $5,000 and maximum prison term of 10 years.
Georgia has misdemeanor penalties of up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine to felony penalties of one to five years and a first offense maximum fine of $15,000 to a second offense maximum fine of $100,000.
Ohio Revised Code Section 959.131 says No person shall knowingly torture, torment, needlessly mutilate or maim, cruelly beat, poison, needlessly kill, or commit an act of cruelty to a companion animal. The law also defines a companion animal as any animal that is kept inside a residential dwelling and any dog or cat regardless of where it is kept.
However, on a second offense, the penalty is increased to a fifth-degree felony which carries a six- to 12-month prison term and up to a $2,500 fine.
Some states similar to Ohio
Ann Chynoweth of the Humane Society of the United States said there are about seven states with similar laws to Ohio.
Chynoweth said animal cruelty happens in every corner and everyday across the country and that doesn't include neglect cases, which are very common.
What is reported is only the tip of the iceberg, she said. Awareness is growing and there are more cases in the news.
Chynoweth said the additional awareness is helping to get these abuse issues addressed.
There is a definite connection between animal cruelty and human violence, she said. In some cases, the animals are used to torment family members and children in the home.
Children who are cruel to animals also are at significant risk of becoming violent to others, including family members, Chynoweth said.
Last Tuesday, a 13-year-old Middletown boy was charged with juvenile delinquency by way of cruelty to animals for allegedly setting a cat on fire in the 700 block of 18th Avenue.
Authorities euthanized the animal, which police said was found barely alive.
The boy, who was released to his mother's custody, is scheduled to appear Sept. 5 in Butler County Juvenile Court.
Leland Gordon, acting chief county dog warden and executive director of the Animal Friends Humane Society in Trenton, told The Journal last week that humane officers investigate about 300 cases of animal cruelty in the county each year. However, Gordon said most cases are not as severe as last week's incident.
Gordon also said most cases are solved through education because many are instances of owners not providing properly for their pets.
New bill tougher
One lawmaker recently introduced a bill in the Ohio House of Representatives beefing up the penalties as well as mandating psychological evaluation for children younger than 15 who commit cruelty against a companion animal.
In addition, the court also could order individual or family counseling for not less than six months in such cases.
State Rep. Brian G. Williams, D-Akron, introduced House Bill 613 in June. The bill has been assigned to the House Criminal Justice Committee where it is awaiting hearings.
If the bill becomes law, a first offense would be a fifth-degree felony instead of the current first-degree misdemeanor; and subsequent offenses would be increase to a third-degree felony instead of the current fifth-degree felony. The penalty for a third-degree felony is a prison term of one to five years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Others are watching
One Web site, pet-abuse.com, monitors animal neglect and cruelty as well as court cases across the United States as well as in Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and New Zealand. In fact, Chynoweth said the Humane Society of the United States monitors the site.
The Web site was launched a few years ago and has a number of features and keeps a record of cruelty and neglect issues.
In Ohio, pet-abuse.com has 323 cases going back to 1987. Of that total, more than 50 have been recorded in 2006 on the Web site.