Tag Archives: violence

Proponent Testimony for HB 523, Cross-reporting of Child Abuse & Animal Cruelty

House Community and Family Advancement Committee

HB 523, Cross-reporting

Proponent Testimony by Beth Sheehan

March 14, 2018

Good afternoon, Chair Ginter, Vice Chair LaTourette, Ranking Minority Member Boyd and distinguished members of the House Community and Family Advancement Committee, I am Beth Sheehan from Hamilton County, representing an Ohio grassroots group, Paws and the Law, advocating for the swift, diligent passage of HB 523.

HB 523, Cross-reporting, offers relief to Ohio families, long suffering under the burden of unrestrained violence. It adds another layer of defense against the nasty web of abuse at work in the shadows of many, Ohio homes.

Many states (CA, CO, CT, DC, IL, LA, ME, MS, NB, OR, TN, VA, WV) already recognize the powerful connections between child abuse and animal cruelty with mandatory or voluntary cross-reporting legislation. Agencies protecting animals shall or may report their suspicions of child abuse to organizations protecting children, and vice versa.

Right now, Ohio cross-reporting laws are puny. They require humane society officials (but neither dog wardens nor animal control officers) to report suspected child abuse.

HB 523 puts more eyes on the alert for hidden violence with mandatory cross-reporting by veterinarians, veterinary technicians, dog wardens, deputy dog wardens, animal control officers, employees of children’s services, county departments of job and family services, licensed counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists.

With claims made in good faith the reporting individuals would be immune from civil and criminal liability.

Established research shows the powerful connections among interpersonal violence and animal abuse. In one study of homes with known physical abuse of children, animal abuse also occurred in 88% of those families. (DeViney, Dickert, & Lockwood, 1983)

71% of women with pets in homes of domestic violence reported their partners had threatened, harmed, or killed their companion animals. 32% of those mothers mothers reported that their children had also hurt or killed their pets. (Ascione, 1998)

Animal cruelty is a warning sign that others too may be at risk. Violent offenders in maximum security are significantly more likely than nonviolent offenders to have committed animal cruelty as children. (Merz-Perez, Heide, and Silverman, 2001)

A current, Ohio case clearly illustrates the nasty web of child abuse and animal cruelty. Middletown police and Butler County Children Services were called to check on a home. After three dead dogs and one decapitated dog’s head were found in the back yard, the mother was charged with three counts of felony animal cruelty.

A few days before her arrest, elementary school officials, concerned about the woman’s three children, notified the police.

Police report said the residence had no edible food and the house was in “very much disarray and unlivable”.

HB 523, Cross-reporting, offers early detection, and hopefully, prevention of rampant violence, unleashed against the most vulnerable among us, children and pets.

I strongly urge you to VOTE YES on HB 523, Cross-reporting of Child Abuse and Animal Cruelty, and to send this bill to the House floor for a vote.

Children pay a high price for witnessing or experiencing violence. Sometimes they pay their entire lives.

Please call Columbus to oppose HB 278, “County Humane Societies”

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   rep03@ohiohouse.gov   (614) 466-8104

Rep Louis W. Blessing, vice chair  rep29@ohiohouse.gov  (614) 466-9091

Rep Kathleen Clyde, ranking minority member rep75@ohiohouse.gov  (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.

 

https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA131-HB-278

 Read the bill in its entirety at the link above.

https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/download?key=4090&format=pdf

Read the analysis of HB 278 at the link above.

 

Proponent Testimony of Mike Smeck

                                                       HOUSE BILL 60

                 PROPONENT TESTIMONY OF Mike Smeck, Representative

Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Nitro Foundation/Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., Paws and the Law, Matt Ditchey, Esq. (Angels for Animals)  

                                                      May 26, 2015

                  House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee

Good morning Chairman Hill and Members of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. My name is Mike Smeck and I currently reside with my family in Amherst, Ohio (Lorain county). I am here today speaking on behalf of the following seven grassroots animal welfare organizations: Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Nitro Foundation/Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., Paws and the Law and Matt Ditchey, Esq. (Angels for Animals) as a proponent for Ohio House Bill 60 as introduced in the 131st Ohio General Assembly.

Representing over 67,000 constituents across 72 Ohio counties, our seven Ohio-citizen driven, community based organizations are the driving force behind legislative efforts to address issues impacting the health and safety of companion animals as defined under Ohio Revised Code 959. Our supporters include a diverse section of voters and taxpayers from across the state, including but not limited to, a broad range of dog enthusiasts, veterinarians, breeders, animal care and welfare organizations, animal control representatives, appointed humane agents, judges, attorneys, and government employees who understand state and federal governance.

Given our coalition’s dedication to educate and support the law enforcement and judicial communities in the enforcement and administration of Ohio’s animal welfare laws, I want to begin my testimony by thanking Representatives Patmon and Hall for their leadership in sponsoring this important piece of legislation for Ohioans.

Companion animal cruelty is viewed as a serious issue by law enforcement and mental health professionals, who recognize the strong link between companion animal abuse and human violence. While Ohio’s humane ranking has improved over the past four years with the passage of House Bill 14 in the 129th Ohio General Assembly and Nitro’s Law as an amendment to House Bill 59 in the 130th Ohio General Assembly, when we look closely at our cruelty statute it remains rather weak in comparison to other states across the country.

We also feel strongly that as we continue to make headway on the opiate issue, we will see new trends — and conversation is suggesting this is already happening — of people who harm companion animals in order to obtain a prescription for an opiate with no intent to provide that level of care to the companion animal, but instead use the narcotic personally or sell it for profit.

Given these concerns, our coalition firmly believes the passage of HB 60 as introduced would represent the emergence of a statewide consensus that egregious abuse against a companion animal should be treated as a serious crime. Although there is much more work left to be done, to enact a felony provision for companion animal cruelty beyond Nitro’s Law would mark a significant milestone in an undeniable trend favoring increased penalties for those who commit profound, intentional acts of serious physical injury against all companion animals, to include dogs regardless of where they may be kept.

It is our hope this Committee will reflect on the opinions expressed by our seven groups and their supporters in today’s testimony prior to recommending Ohio House Bill 60 as introduced for review and passage by the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. As the representative for Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Nitro Foundation/Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., Paws and the Law and Matt Ditchey, Esq. (Angels for Animals), I greatly appreciate your time and consideration on this important piece of legislation for Ohioans, and I welcome any questions you may have.

There is a grim, human cost to the failure of our bills

What will be lost to Ohio communities if our seven, companion animal bills “time out” and die in the Statehouse in December?  While these bills intend to protect our beloved cats and dogs, they also aim to defend other vulnerable, human victims.   The failure of each of the seven bills has a grim, human cost, as well.  So, when the committee chairs do not call for hearings, or when the Senate leadership does not call our bills to the floor for a vote,  they are also turning their backs on some of Ohio’s most vulnerable populations. These unprotected victims will continue to pay a severe, human cost if these bills fail.

With the failure of HB 274, “Goddard’s Law”, Felony for Animal Cruelty, widespread violence, hidden in the shadows of our towns and cities, will remain there unchecked. Animal cruelty has well-established connections to interpersonal violence and some mental illness. The animal cruelty is a warning, a ‘red flag’ that others in the area may also be in danger. Animal abuse is powerfully tied to child abuse, elder abuse, maltreatment of handicapped, and spousal abuse. Why should children, elders, handicapped, and spouses in Ohio have to endure unbridled violence?

The FBI just changed its Uniform Crime Reporting information. Animal cruelty now holds a separate category. That reflects an enormous shift in the understanding of the scope and importance of animal crime. If community violence is to be effectively combated, then the animal abuse should be proactively rooted out and prosecuted with the same vigor that crimes against people are.

With the failure of HB 57, Humane Officer Training, Ohio counties will continue to be understaffed and under served. Our humane agents, animal crime scene investigators, often work in dangerous conditions with little pay. While examining animal abuse, they may be confronted by a violent spouse, a mentally ill individual, gangs, drug traffickers, or organized blood sports. Moreover, state law requires the county to pay its humane officer a minimum of $25 each month.

Why should Ohio families be left, to fend for themselves, year after year, without sufficient, paid professionals to combat simmering crises and unexposed violence in their midst?

With the failure of HB 243, Psychological Evaluation of Youngsters Convicted of Animal Cruelty, some children that have seen or experienced violence themselves will remain unseen and unknown, defenseless against brutality in their own homes.

Additionally, these same youngsters may be using the animal cruelty as a “practice” act before they move on to human victims. Violence can pass in families from one generation to the next, unless there is outside intervention. Why should Ohio’s youngsters have to continue to witness violence and bear unjust punishments alone and in silence?

Most of the school shooters practiced on animals before they entered their schools, armed with guns, intent on widespread killing. Why aren’t adjudicated youngsters with known histories of torturing and killing animals, who have demonstrated a propensity to violence, not evaluated and treated?

The families, neighbors, and classmates of these same youngsters are living, unprotected, with a thinly veiled danger in the midst.

With the failure of HB 251, Flexible Sentencing for Judges, Ohio judges will continue to seek community sanctions, instead of prison time, for some F-4 and F-5 convicted offenders, as is required by current law.   Why should Ohio families sustain convicted offenders, who know how to game the system to avoid incarceration, simply paying a fine, then quickly returning to their criminal vices within their neighborhoods? 

With the failure of HB 310, PTSD Merits Service Animals, individuals suffering from PTSD, often our honored veterans of Middle East wars, will remain unrecognized, struggling for their own independence.  Why can’t an Ohio PTSD sufferer be awarded a service animal to get his mobility and his life back?  

With the failure of  SB 177, Domestic Violence and Pet Protection Orders,  women, children, and pets in homes of domestic violence will be denied a safe, early exit from the home.  Twenty-nine other states (plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico) already have enacted this law.  Why should a woman in Ohio have to choose between her own safety and the safety of her dog?

With the failure of SB 217, Veterinary Hospital Inspections, pet owners remain unprotected consumers.  Right now in Ohio veterinarians are basically “on the honor system”.   Neither the Board of Health nor the Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board is making “surprise inspections” to check on the hygiene,  to see if the equipment is working, to monitor the protocols, or to verify correct record-keeping.  Why do Ohio pet owners not have the same quality control checks of their animal hospitals as other states offer to their pet owners?

With the failure of these seven bills, each aiming to protect cats and dogs, there is a obvious grave, human loss, as well.  Ohio’s most vulnerable populations are left, unprotected by law, from violence.  Ohio’s pet owners remain without consumer protections.  Ohio’s families continue to endure savvy offenders continuing their vices within their neighborhoods.  

Ohio, write to your state senator and to your state representative today in support of these important bills.  There are just eighteen sessions left in this General Assembly.  Without diligent, legislative attention, these bills will continue to linger and die, as has happened in General Assemblies before.

Each Ohio voter has one state senator and one state representative.  You can locate your two, state legislators by typing in your zip code plus your four-digit extension in the bottom, left-hand corner of each linked, home page below.

FINAL NOTE:  Only one of these bills, SB 177, passed.  All the rest languished and died.

http://www.ohiohouse.gov/ (Locate your state rep.)

http://www.ohiosenate.gov/senate/index (Locate your state senator.)

The failure of each companion animal bill has a grim, human cost, as well

What will be lost to Ohio communities if our seven, companion animal bills “time out” and die in the Statehouse in December?  While these bills intend to protect our beloved cats and dogs, they also aim to defend other vulnerable, human victims.   The failure of each of the seven bills has a grim, human cost, as well.  So, when the committee chairs do not call for hearings, or when the Senate leadership does not call our bills to the floor for a vote,  they are also turning their backs on some of Ohio’s most vulnerable populations. These unprotected victims will continue to pay a severe, human cost if these bills fail.

With the failure of HB 274, “Goddard’s Law”, Felony for Animal Cruelty, widespread violence, hidden in the shadows of our towns and cities, will remain there unchecked. Animal cruelty has well-established connections to interpersonal violence and some mental illness. The animal cruelty is a warning, a ‘red flag’ that others in the area may also be in danger. Animal abuse is powerfully tied to child abuse, elder abuse, maltreatment of handicapped, and spousal abuse. Why should children, elders, handicapped, and spouses in Ohio have to endure unbridled violence?

The FBI just changed its Uniform Crime Reporting information. Animal cruelty now holds a separate category. That reflects an enormous shift in the understanding of the scope and importance of animal crime. If community violence is to be effectively combated, then the animal abuse should be proactively rooted out and prosecuted with the same vigor that crimes against people are.

With the failure of HB 57, Humane Officer Training, Ohio counties will continue to be understaffed and under served. Our humane agents, animal crime scene investigators, often work in dangerous conditions with little pay. While examining animal abuse, they may be confronted by a violent spouse, a mentally ill individual, gangs, drug traffickers, or organized blood sports. Moreover, state law requires the county to pay its humane officer a minimum of $25 each month.

Why should Ohio families be left, to fend for themselves, year after year, without sufficient, paid professionals to combat simmering crises and unexposed violence in their midst?

With the failure of HB 243, Psychological Evaluation of Youngsters Convicted of Animal Cruelty, some children that have seen or experienced violence themselves will remain unseen and unknown, defenseless against brutality in their own homes.

Additionally, these same youngsters may be using the animal cruelty as a “practice” act before they move on to human victims. Violence can pass in families from one generation to the next, unless there is outside intervention. Why should Ohio’s youngsters have to continue to witness violence and bear unjust punishments alone and in silence?

Most of the school shooters practiced on animals before they entered their schools, armed with guns, intent on widespread killing. Why aren’t adjudicated youngsters with known histories of torturing and killing animals, who have demonstrated a propensity to violence, not evaluated and treated?

The families, neighbors, and classmates of these same youngsters are living, unprotected, with a thinly veiled danger in the midst.

With the failure of HB 251, Flexible Sentencing for Judges, Ohio judges will continue to seek community sanctions, instead of prison time, for some F-4 and F-5 convicted offenders, as is required by current law.   Why should Ohio families sustain convicted offenders, who know how to game the system to avoid incarceration, simply paying a fine, then quickly returning to their criminal vices within their neighborhoods? 

With the failure of HB 310, PTSD Merits Service Animals, individuals suffering from PTSD, often our honored veterans of Middle East wars, will remain unrecognized, struggling for their own independence.  Why can’t an Ohio PTSD sufferer be awarded a service animal to get his mobility and his life back?  

With the failure of  SB 177, Domestic Violence and Pet Protection Orders,  women, children, and pets in homes of domestic violence will be denied a safe, early exit from the home.  Twenty-nine other states (plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico) already have enacted this law.  Why should a woman in Ohio have to choose between her own safety and the safety of her dog?

With the failure of SB 217, Veterinary Hospital Inspections, pet owners remain unprotected consumers.  Right now in Ohio veterinarians are basically “on the honor system”.   Neither the Board of Health nor the Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board is making “surprise inspections” to check on the hygiene,  to see if the equipment is working, to monitor the protocols, or to verify correct record-keeping.  Why do Ohio pet owners not have the same quality control checks of their animal hospitals as other states offer to their pet owners?

With the failure of these seven bills, each aiming to protect cats and dogs, there is a obvious grave, human loss, as well.  Ohio’s most vulnerable populations are left, unprotected by law, from violence.  Ohio’s pet owners remain without consumer protections.  Ohio’s families continue to endure savvy offenders continuing their vices within their neighborhoods.  

Ohio, write to your state senator and to your state representative today in support of these important bills.  There are just eighteen sessions left in this General Assembly.  Without diligent, legislative attention, these bills will continue to linger and die, as has happened in General Assemblies before.

Each Ohio voter has one state senator and one state representative.  You can locate your two, state legislators by typing in your zip code plus your four-digit extension in the bottom, left-hand corner of each linked, home page below.

FINAL NOTE: Only one of these bills, SB 177, passed.  The other bills languished and died.

http://www.ohiohouse.gov/ (Locate your state rep.)

http://www.ohiosenate.gov/senate/index (Locate your state senator.)

HB 45, Humane Officer Training, “adds teeth” to combat violence!

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.)