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PM Beth Sheehan your foster, rescue, or advocacy group name to join the grassroots support for SB 232

Senate Agriculture Committee

SB 232, Veterinarians Continuing Ed for Neutering Services

Proponent Testimony by Beth Sheehan

February 6, 2018

Good afternoon, Chair Hackett, Vice Chair Hoagland, Ranking Minority Member O’Brien, and distinguished members of the Ohio Senate Agriculture Committee.

I am Beth Sheehan, a Hamilton County resident, who stands before you today, representing a broad, grassroots coalition of dog and cat advocates and engaged, Ohio voters – AARF Radio Ohio; Angels for Animals; Animal Pawtectors; Ashtabula County Animal Protective League; The Black Dog Food Pantry; Dogs Unlimited; Fairfield County CARES (Citizens for Animal Rights and Ethical Standards); Falcon Animal Rescue; Family Puppy Boycott-Puppy Mill Awareness of NW Ohio; Harrison County Dog Pound Volunteers; Hartman’s Hounds; Friends of Fido MCDP; Heaven Can Wait; Humane Society of Richland County; Joseph’s Legacy; Justice for Herbie; Kecia Mathys; Max’s Animal Mission; National Animal Shelter Volunteers; Never Muzzled; Nitro’s Ohio Army; North Coast Boxer Rescue; Ohio American Eskimo Rescue; Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates; One of a Kind Pet Rescue; Our Mission Dog Rescue; Paws and the Law; Pawz 2 Adopt, Austintown; Peppermint Pig Animal Rescue; A Perfect Match; Pinealope Animal Rescue; Rescue Village; Rose’s Rescue; Ross County Humane Society; Safe Harbor Animal Rescue, Vermillion; Sanctuary for Senior Dogs; Save Ohio Strays; Soul Connections of Central Ohio; Summit County Shelter; TNR of Warren, Inc.; Tuscarawas County Humane Society; Underdog Society of Knox County; Vote 4 Animals Help Chained Dogs, Dayton; West Side Cats, and 911 Dog Rescue Inc. / Amy’s Adoptables, who enthusiastically support the passage of SB 232, “Veterinary Spay-Neuter Bill”.

SB 232 gives veterinarians the OPTION (not mandate) of receiving up to 2 Continuing Education Units (CEU), out of 30 needed biennially for license renewal, for performing up to four hours of free spay-neuter surgeries.

Why is this a significant bill? Cat and dog population explosion is exponential. Over 70,000 puppies and kittens are born in the U.S. every day.  Some 6.5 million healthy and treatable cats and dogs enter shelters across the nation each year.  About half of them are euthanized, many for space.

One cat can have three litters of kittens per year, with an average of four kittens per litter.  An indoor cat, living to 15-years-old, could produce up to 180 kittens during her lifetime.

One dog can have up to three litters in a year, with an average of seven puppies per litter. One female and her babies can create 67,000 puppies in six years.

Spaying-neutering pets not only saves lives, but protects against pet, health problems, reduces some behavior problems, and also saves taxpayer money.  

Spaying eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers and infections, and substantially decreases the risk of mammary cancers. Neutering prevents testicular cancer, and reduces the risk of prostate problems.

Unfixed pets may mark their territory by spaying strong smelling urine throughout their homes or digging under fences to meet a mate in heat, only to become a stray dog.

County governments are more efficient and save taxpayer dollars with fewer animals in their shelters.  Many shelter costs will significantly decrease – the animals’ cost-of-care, the shelter employees’ wages, the euthanization expenditures, the price to incinerate their bodies, and the fees to haul their corpses away. Additionally, fewer animal remains will be deposited in the local landfill.

On average, communities spend approximately $8 per capita for animal shelters, handle 30 animals per 1,000 people, and euthanize about 12.5 animals per 1,000 people.

Everybody pays, whether he owns an animal or not. There are additional costs in time, money, and resources to our police, fire, and health departments, hospitals, prosecutors’ offices, and courts with an overflow of animals.  The abundant dogs and cats are involved in cruelty and neglect cases, animal fighting rings, car accidents, stray dog bites, spread of disease, neighborhood disturbances, and violations of local ordinances and state laws.

With the passage of SB 232, we recognize the compassionate, generous work of our veterinarians; we hasten fiscal efficiency of our county governments; we attain a higher standard of humanity for ourselves.

I appreciate the openness of the leadership and members of the Senate Agriculture Committee to learn more about this critical bill.  I am pleased to answer your questions. 

HB 187, First Responders May Stabilize Pets

HB 187, First Responders May Stabilize Pets, is moving forward in the Statehouse.  It has passed the House.  It has had its second hearing in the Senate.  

This important bill clarifies the type of first aide first responders may give to a cat or a dog at the scene of an accident.   Those treatments include opening and manually maintaining an airway, giving mouth to snout  ventilation, administering oxygen, managing ventilation by mask, controlling hemorrhage with direct pressure, immobilizing fractures, and bandaging.

The following story illustrates how the passage of HB 187 would help to save lives.

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Riding with Jager

I am honored to ride through Cincinnati with Jager today. His police car proudly announces his presence.  “Jager” is stenciled in black letters on the outside of the white, squad car. Jager, which means “hunter” in German, is aptly named.  He competently tracks suspects and retrieves evidence long after the commission of a crime. He and his handler, Officer Bob, work in the K-9 unit for the Cincinnati Police Department. 

Jager is a beautiful, fawn-colored Belgian Malinois with a black mask, weighing about 60 pounds.  This athletic, intelligent dog is a great, criminal and evidence hunter whose nose is so highly sensitive that he can arrive an hour after a crime has been committed and lock onto the plume of scent, lingering in the air, left in the sudden wake of the bad guys.  Jager has such keen sniff that he is able to follow the offenders away from the crime scene wherever they might quickly flee.  He can sense their previous movements, zigzagging across back yards, scooting under decks and porches, or traversing a creek.  He is able to astutely follow their scent long distances and to identify them where they are in hiding.  He then alerts his handler, Officer Bob, to the hidden offenders, lying low, unable to be seen by his handler, yet well detected by Jager’s own acute radar.  

Jager started out his life in Europe.  The Cincinnati Police Department gets its canine officers from the Eastern Bloc countries because the dog blood lines there are clean and pure.  The dogs are bred there for work and for sport, as they have been for centuries.  The Belgian Malinois have not been mingled with other breeds.

These highly competent, confident animals, valued at between $50,000 and $100,000 after training, provide unique information to their police partners when tracking suspects, searching for missing persons, detecting explosives, or investigating arson.

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Now, let’s look at a possible, dangerous scene that Officer Bob and Jager may encounter while on duty.

It’s two in the morning.  Officer Bob and his partner, Jager, are riding alone through Over the Rhine, when a 911 call comes over the radio. “Send a dog to 2227 Reading Rd.  Domestic violence.  Suspect armed. Possible crystal meth, drug house.” 

So, Officer Bob and Jager kick into high gear with strobe lights flashing  and siren wailing, heading north on Reading Road.  This officer and his canine partner are the first to arrive at the scene.  They hear breaking glass, screams, and an explosion from inside the home.  The officer and his partner quickly scale the front steps and  position themselves to the left of the front door.

As the next squad car arrives, Officer Bob shouts into the dark home, “Canine officer!   Come on out with your hands up, or I’ll let my dog loose.”  There is no response to his call.  This time, his shout is louder, “Canine officer.  Raise your hands.  Come out, or I’ll let my dog loose.”

Officer Bob leans down and quietly gives Jager a command In German.  “Such, Jager.”  He then unhooks Jager’s leash.  Jager bolts into the dark building, head down, starting his track.   He works around the perimeter of the first room, using his acute smell to detect any possible suspects in the room. He does not signal to Officer Bob that he has found anyone.  Having cleared the first room, Jager, head down, continues into the second room. The officers enter the first room now, assured of a safe access because of Jager’s work.    

The house remains silent.  Outside additional officers, paramedics, and firemen have arrived and are forming a circle outside of the building.

Inside the second room of the darkened home, the policemen feel nauseous and begin to vomit.  Their eyes burn.  They are cough and gasp for air as they quickly back out of the house. The paramedics on duty leap into action to quickly administer  the meds and oxygen to the men to stabilize them.  Soon, the officers begin to come around again.

But where is Jager?  He’s still inside, lying unconscious on the floor.  Jager begins to convulse.

Some of the newer arrivals hurriedly don their masks, then they race into the building to rescue Yeager. They transport him outside and lay him on the ground.  He is unresponsive. Officer Bob is very upset when he sees Jager having seizures.  He begs, “Jager isn’t moving!  He’s not coming around!  You’ve got to give Jager the meds and the oxygen too!” 

The paramedics refuse.  It is not in their jurisdiction to give oxygen to an animal. They are afraid of losing their Ohio license because of treating a police canine

Frustrated, Officer Bob says to one of the other officers, “Help me get Jager into the squad car.  Where is the nearest vet?”

Officer Bob and his partner lift the unresponsive body of Jager into the back seat of the squad care.  He puts the car into emergency mode, racing towards the closest animal hospital. Yeager dies in the ambulance before they arrive.

What might have saved Jager from his fatal reaction to the meth lab?  A simple dose of Versed, a sedative to stop the seizures which the paramedics had with them, and a pet mask with oxygen could have stabilized Jager enough to buy some critical time for him.

This is why HB 187, First Responders May Stabilize Pets in an Emergency, is a crucial, common sense bill to support.  It enables First Responders to give oxygen, to splint an injured pet’s limb, or to call a veterinarian in order to get directions on how to stabilize the animal until the animal can be taken to a veterinarian.

This is a bill that can not only save treasured pets in emergencies, such as a fire or a car accident, but it can also save the lives of valuable, police canines and priceless, service animals.

Breed Discriminatory Legislation Targets the Wrong End of the Leash!

Breed Discriminatory Legislation (BDL)  targets the wrong end of the leash!   Often BDL is quickly enacted in a response to a horrendous, high profile, dog attack.  In a rush to to make communities feel safe from vicious, sometimes fatal, dog attacks, many animal ordinances have targeted specific breeds (pit bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers)  as the problem. A designation of “dangerous” or “vicious” has serious, legal consequences on both the dog and his owners.  Owners of these breeds have a long, costly checklist to follow if they want to keep their animals.

BDL does not make all dog owners responsible.   It puts undue obligations and financial burdens only on dog owners of specific breeds. Yet, all dog owners must bear the responsibility of training, leashing, and confining their dogs.

BDL does not reduce dog bites. It has proven to be ineffective both in this country and in Europe.  Spain, Italy, Great Britain, and the Netherlands all reported that after years of living with BSL, there were neither reduced dog bites nor improved community safety.

It is costly to enforce BDL.  Shelter costs may rise as owners, unable to comply with the legal and the financial obligations of having a “dangerous dog”, abandon their pets at the shelter.  Additionally, adoptable dogs of targeted breeds would not be able to be adopted out.  They would be euthanized.   Prince George, Maryland attests to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for fifteen years to enforce BDL.  They report no increase to safety during that time.  

In 2012 The Toledo Blade paid for DNA testing on six dogs, declared pit bulls by the county dog warden.  Test results showed that three of the six dogs were not pit bulls at all.  Two dogs contained a small percent of the breeds.  The sixth dog had more than half of the pit bull breeds.  How many dogs were needlessly euthanized because of their blocky heads, short fur, and stocky bodies?

The BDL may not stand up to legal challenges.  The ASPCA says that, when asked to identify the breeds of stray, mixed breed dogs, professionals (dog wardens, shelter staff) are correct less than 25% of the time when compared with DNA testing on the same dogs.  Knowing that, pet owners now can simply pay for a DNA test to challenge an incorrect identification of the breed of their dog.  BDL may also involve taking of property without due process.

There are inconsistencies between federal and local law. The Department of Justice allows ALL BREEDS to be used as service dogs.  How can a local jurisdiction, that supports BSL, be in conflict with a federal law, which is “breed neutral”? Many dogs listed on “the forbidden” list, including American Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds,  are also used as therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, police / military working dogs, and service dogs for the disabled.

On the other hand, many well-respected, national organizations support “breed neutral” legislation: The White House, The American Bar Association (ABA),The Center for Disease Control (CDC), The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA),  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and a host more. 

A study published by the Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances (2009) found that the owner’s behavior has a direct impact on the dog’s personality and behavior.  The time that the owner spends caring for and training a dog is inversely related to the dog’s aggression.

Ohio is one of 20 states that have banned BDL. BDL is costly.  Its restrictions are difficult to enforce.  No one is any safer because he lives in a BDL jurisdiction. Good dogs can be taken away from loving homes simply because of the shape of their heads.  Some families, deeply upset by BDL, move away from the BDL jurisdiction and into an area that allows blocky-headed dogs.  Other families live in fear that, one day, there will be an unexpected knock on the door and their animals, that have done nothing wrong, will be seized.

Ohio, let’s support reasonable, research-based, “breed neutral” legislation that will put the responsibility for the dog’s behavior on the dog owners  and safeguard our communities against vicious, dog attacks.