HB 278 Weakens the Effective Prosecution of Ohio Animal Cruelty
Opposition testimony is being heard in Columbus for HB 278, “Special Prosecutors”, on Tuesday, February 23, 2016. I strongly encourage you to write to the leadership of the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee in opposition to this bill.
You may use any part of my blog that you like. It is always better if you vary it so that all of the letters do not sound the same.
Links to both the bill and its analysis follow the blog.
House Government Accountability and Oversight
Rep Tim W. Brown, chair email@example.com (614) 466-8104
Rep Louis W. Blessing, vice chair firstname.lastname@example.org (614) 466-9091
Rep Kathleen Clyde, ranking minority member email@example.com (614) 466-2004
HB 278 Has Shut its Eyes to Rampant Violence
I oppose the passage of HB 278, “Special Prosecutors”, sponsored by Representative Stephen Hambley. Animal cruelty, a gateway act to human violence, must be prosecuted with great vigor in order to effectively safeguard our communities.
The animal crime is often the most visible sign in the area that others too (children, elderly, handicapped, partners) may also be in danger of unmitigated violence or extreme neglect.
The county humane society is in the best position right now to properly choose between the special prosecutor and the county prosecutor. HB 278 takes away that choice.
What happens when the already overworked, county prosecutor – with no training in animal law – gets an animal crime case with no potential for a large settlement? That case quickly moves to the bottom of his stack. It may never soon see the light of day.
In the meantime, the seized animals are on hold in the local humane society. That humane society is providing the daily cost of care, veterinary care, behavior assessment, and rehabilitation training. Those costs become staggering with many, confiscated animals, detained over a long time. That weighty, financial burden can potentially cause a humane society to fail.
Also, each day dogs and cats are impounded, adds a risk to the well-being of the animal victims. Additionally, the animals in custody are taking space, resources, and finances that cannot be used for local animals in need.
Moreover, HB 278 allows removal of humane agents by the Probate Court without cause and removes the broad reporting requirement for child abuse cases.
HB 278 does have worthy attributes. It removes the residency requirement for humane agents. Thus, Ohio humane agents would be able to work outside of the county in which they reside. In addition, the county would raise the monthly pay for humane agents from $25 to $150.
Ohio needs animal law attorneys on the job for animal crimes. These special prosecutors have the knowledge, training, and expertise to facilitate a quick resolution to animal crime cases.
The swift prosecution of animal crimes by experienced, animal law attorneys is a necessary prong in Ohio’s defense against sinister, violent forces hard at work, hidden in plain sight, in our communities.
Read the bill in its entirety at the link above.
Read the analysis of HB 278 at the link above.
Ohio, let’s turn back the violence in our towns and cities! We’ll start by working to enact legislation “with sharp teeth” to protect our beloved, companion animals and to safeguard our wonderful neighborhoods. Ohio voters, seeking safer communities, understand HB 45, Humane Officer Training, is a critical part of stemming the violence.
Animal cruelty and interpersonal violence are powerfully connected. Animal abuse is, first and foremost, an act of violence. The perpetrator causes suffering, injury, and possible death to the animal. The tormentor can also be acting out violence in ways that are less evident to the casual eye. There may be other vulnerable victims (mentally handicapped, elderly, children, spouses) living nearby in danger and in fear.
HB 45 has two, main components. First, it mandates the filing with the county recorder of twenty hours of successful training for humane officers. The officers are schooled in the investigation and prosecution of cruelty and neglect to animals. They are also educated about “domestic violence, violence-related incidents, protection orders, consent agreements, crisis intervention, missing children, child abuse, and neglect”. So, while investigating the animal abuse, their trained eyes are scanning for additional at risk victims.
As first responders to an animal crime scene, the humane officers collect evidence and make assessments that form the foundation upon which a later animal cruelty trial is based. If the humane officers are improperly trained and neither know what to look for nor know what to do during that initial phase of an animal abuse case, the case will be lost from the first day. The animal abuser will go free. The animal will be returned to the abuser.
Second, HB 45 eliminates the residency requirement. Current law says that the humane officer can work only in the county in which he resides. By getting rid of the residency requirement, more Ohio counties will be served by the same amount of animal cruelty investigators.
Additionally, there are many, Ohio counties today without even one humane officer. So, when animal cruelty cases arise, there are no humane officers to respond.
Finally, each county pays the humane officer merely $25 each month. Liz Raab is working on an amendment to HB 57 that would raise that salary.
Let’s look at one, famous, Ohio animal cruelty case. Liz Raab, and her husband, Tom Siesto, left their beloved three-year old, Rottweiler, Nitro, with food, toys, full medical coverage, and the anticipation of additional training for Nitro, in a Youngstown kennel, while they kept vigil at the hospital bed of Liz’s father.
When they came to pick up Nitro, they were stunned by the nightmarish scene and horrific news. Nitro was in a freezer waiting for them. The boarding kennel had been a hell hole, with no food or water for the animals lodged there. Those nineteen dogs had been left in a house of death. Nitro and six other animals had died slow, painful deaths. An additional twelve animals were in deplorable physical condition, severely underweight, dehydrated, and near starvation. Liz and Tom’s much-loved family pet went from a healthy 105 pounds when they left him at the kennel to 50 pounds at his death weeks later.
This cruelty case of nineteen, emaciated and dead dogs, was bungled from its beginning. When the humane officers entered the crime scene, they neither had a search warrant, nor were both humane officers already sworn into office. Therefore, the evidence that they collected that day could not be used in court.
Fifteen charges, out of nineteen possible charges, were dropped because the officers came without a search warrant. Only four charges, relating to the four dogs that could be seen from a neighbor’s yard, remained.
Ohio’s puny animal laws revealed themselves at the kennel owner’s, criminal trial. For severe, animal cruelty, the agonizing deaths and near deaths of nineteen family pets, the kennel owner was subject to a misdemeanor charge with four counts of animal cruelty and four months in jail.
The owner then declared bankruptcy, which allowed him to avoid paying for the animals in the lawsuit.
Interpersonal violence and animal cruelty are tightly interwoven, living in the shadows of our neighborhoods. If Ohio is to effectively combat violence, it must prosecute animal cruelty with the same fervor as it acts against interpersonal violence. Step one is to have properly trained, humane officers who rigorously comply with the law.
This significant bill, Humane Officer Training, has died in previous Ohio General Assemblies. It appears headed down that same path today. HB 45 needs our support.
Join Ohio voters across the state in support of HB 45, Humane Officer Training, by calling or writing important, decision makers today. Start by contacting Senator Keith Faber, president of the Ohio Senate. Then contact the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Their contact information is provided below.
Each of your calls is noted by the legislators and helps to move HB 45, Humane Officer Training, forward.
Ohio, let’s keep the momentum going for HB 45!
https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA131-HB-45 (Read the bill here.)