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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. 

Ohio needs laws with teeth to combat animal cruelty and interpersonal violence

What is felony animal cruelty in Ohio?

There are two, specific times in Ohio law when animal abuse is a felony.  In the first example, the animal abuser must be convicted of animal cruelty TWICE before he faces a felony conviction.  The first time that offender is convicted it is only a misdemeanor.  This felony for second abuse conviction has been seldom used.

Second, if an animal “in the care of a kennel” is intentionally harmed by the manager, the owner, or the employees, it is a felony.  This is “Nitro’s Law,” named after the beautiful Rottweiler that died in a Youngstown kennel of starvation and neglect.

MOST animal abuse is a misdemeanor in Ohio. That means that the maximum sentence for intentional animal cruelty, causing extreme suffering, possibly death to an animal is six months in jail and one thousand dollars in fine.

What happens to convicted animal abusers at sentencing?

At sentencing, the convicted animal abuser often pays a fine, gets probation, AND he gets his animal returned to him.

Here is a bizarre example of Ohio, animal cruelty.  In 2013, Elizabeth Lewis, 19, of Hamilton, Ohio faced animal cruelty charges with the same dog, Bruiser, for the second time in less than a year. Ms. Lewis appeared both times for her animal cruelty charges in the courtroom of the same judge, Hamilton Municipal Court Judge Daniel Gattermeyer.

Bruiser, her pit bull, was found nearly starved to death each time.  The first time the judge found Ms. Lewis not guilty of animal cruelty and returned Bruiser to Ms. Lewis.

The second time, a neighbor saw the emaciated, weakened Bruiser fall down some steps. She then called the police to intervene.

Lewis was charged with cruelty to a companion animal and failure to license a dog. These are both misdemeanors.

In his second ruling, the judge admitted “the dog did suffer”.  He sentenced Lewis to of 180 days in the Butler County Jail but suspended 90 days.

“Lewis was also placed on two years of community control, ordered to get her GED, not to have pets, and to pay a $500 fine. The judge reminded her if she did not show up for jail, she would serve the entire 180 days.”

Why don’t Ohio judges send convicted animal abusers to prison?

Ohio prisons are dangerously overcrowded and have been for quite a while.  Since the passage of HB 86 in 2011, Ohio judges are mandated to seek community sanctions (no prison) for certain nonviolent F-4 and F-5 offenders.  Animal abusers are considered by law to be nonviolent.

So, even if the current HB 60, ‘Goddard’s Law’ is enacted, animal abusers still will not be sent to prison.  The judges will continue to follow their mandate to look for community sanctions instead of prison.

HB 60, ‘Goddard’s Law’, felony for animal cruelty, has been severely damaged

HB 60, ‘Goddard’s Law’, as introduced, recognizes the complexity of animal cruelty and offers justice for animals that suffer or die from intentional acts of abuse.

However, the excellent intent of the bill has been recently, severely damaged with an amendment.  The amendment was added on June 9, 2015, just two weeks before the full House vote.

The amendment (“A humane society … shall not employ an attorney … to prosecute a felony”) does not allow humane societies to employ animal law attorneys for FELONY animal cruelty.  The humane societies must use the county prosecutors for FELONY animal cruelty cases.

I believe that one of the unintended consequences of the passage of HB 60 WITH THIS AMENDMENT is that in order to retain experienced animal law attorneys, the humane societies will choose to prosecute more FELONY animal crimes as misdemeanors.

This will have a chilling effect on the future felony prosecution of animal cruelty cases. This unintended effect alone for me is worth stopping the bill.

Why the county prosecutor may not be as good as the animal law attorney

What happens when the already overworked, county prosecutor gets an animal crime case with no potential, large settlement to accompany it?  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.

Each day impounded in the humane society, 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.

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.

Animal crime is the ‘red flag’ that others too may be in danger

An immediate responsibility of Ohio legislators is to safeguard our communities against the raging, epidemic violence.

The powerful connections among interpersonal violence, animal cruelty, and some, mental illness are well researched.  The recognition of that nasty web has been effecting rapid, legislative change across this nation.

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 swift prosecution of animal crimes by experienced, animal law attorneys is a useful prong in Ohio’s defense against sinister forces at work, hidden in plain sight, in our communities.

 

https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA131-HB-60 (Read HB 60 here.)

http://archives.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=129_HB_86   (Read HB 86 here.)

http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/hamilton-woman-sentenced-in-animal-cruelty-case/nYNyY/

 

Amendment to “Goddard’s Law” may cause dire, unintended consequences

I stand firmly opposed to the passage of HB 60, “Goddard’s Law”, because of its recently introduced amendment. The excellent legislative aim of HB 60 is severely damaged by this amendment.  

HB 60, Goddard’s Law, now appears to be going in two differing directions at once.   HB 60, as introduced, aims to protect both companion animals and Ohio communities with a felony provision for animal cruelty. Yet, the recent amendment aims to diminish the successful prosecution of animal felony cases by not allowing humane societies to employ special prosecutors for felony animal cruelty.

I believe that one of the unintended consequences of the passage of HB 60 with this amendment is that in order to retain experienced animal law attorneys, the humane societies will choose to make more animal crimes a misdemeanor, instead of a felony.

This will have a chilling effect on the future of felony prosecution of animal cruelty cases. This unintended effect alone for me is worth stopping the bill.

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 to accompany it? 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.

Each day dogs and cats are impounded in the humane society, 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.

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.

I do not seek a change of heart of those Ohio legislators without compassion for suffering animals.

I do, however, remind those legislators of their primary responsibility to their electorate – to safeguard, Ohio communities against the epidemic violence devastating our communities.

The powerful connections among interpersonal violence, animal cruelty, and some, mental illness are well researched. The recognition of the dangerous effect that nasty web has on our most vulnerable populations has catapulted important legislative change forward across this nation.

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 swift prosecution of animal crimes by experienced, animal law attorneys is a necessary prong in Ohio’s defense against sinister forces hard at work, hidden in plain sight, in our communities.