CLEVELAND — Under current Ohio law, people convicted of abusing or killing a domesticated animal don’t serve jail time, but animal rights activists are working with lawmakers to change that with newly-introduced legislation.
Because of overcrowding in Ohio jails, serious acts of animal cruelty are classified as fourth and fifth degree felonies, which do not result in jail time.
Sharon Harvey, CEO of the Animal Protective League, described what the new bill classifies as serious acts of cruelty: “Any unnecessary, unjustifiable, cruel beating, maiming or mutilating of a companion animal."
If passed, the law would increase the charge to a third-degree felony, which could result in jail time for those crimes.
“We feel that there needs to be a penalty that more suitably fits the level of the crime,” Harvey said.
Harvey said people willing to harm animals pose a serious threat to public safety.
“What we know from research that is well-documented is that most of our well-known serial killers or mass murderers started with torturing and tormenting smaller animals,” Harvey said. “These are crimes against animals that aren't just bad for animals. These are people that are potentially a danger in society.”
Employees at the APL and animal lovers believe a slap on the wrist or a citation is not enough.
“I think it would be fantastic. I mean, I really don't like when people abuse animals,” Kaleb Pinkard said. “It's like they don't have a voice so they can't speak up for themselves.”
Senate Bill 205 only includes punishment for people who harm “companion animals,” otherwise known as domestic pets. Livestock and wild animals are not protected by the legislation.