Proposed Law Could Strengthen Penalties For Animal Abusers

UPDATED: Thursday September 19, 2013 6:34 PM

Animal rights advocates and lawmakers are finalizing plans to introduce a bill that would make harsher penalties for animal abusers in Ohio.

Josh Payton currently is serving a 180-day sentence on two animal cruelty charges.

He beat one dog with a hammer and stabbed another repeatedly – then, he left both of them to die.

Under the proposed Goddard’s Law, it would make the misdemeanor crimes in that case felony counts, which would be punishable by six months to one year in jail.

State Rep. Bill Patmon is sponsoring the bill. He calls it long overdue.

“You will get caught and can be prosecuted under a fifth-degree felony,” Patmon said. “And that is to discourage people from drowning cats, hanging dogs.”

Livestock is specifically excluded from Patmon’s bill which solely applies to companion animals.

Intentional cruelty would rise to the level of a felony, while negligence would be a misdemeanor.

“Misdemeanors can be effective, but when there’s an egregious crime, a particularly heinous crime, you want to be able to seek a felony punishment,” said  Rachel Finney, the Executive Director of the Capital Area Humane Society.

Animal rights advocates say the bill would bring Ohio in line with the rest of the country, where cruelty is a felony in 45 states.

While the bill moves forward toward a committee hearing at the Statehouse, Patmon believes Goddard’s Law will draw bi-partisan support.

“It’s a good bill,” Patmon said. “It’s the right thing to do, and I will continue trying. But I think this is the one, I do.”

Last July, Gov. John Kasich signed Nitro’s Law, which establishes a felony charge for kennel owners and employees who abuse animals.

Goddard’s Law goes further, and carries a felony charge for anyone who intentionally injures or kills a pet.

The proposal is named after Cleveland weatherman Dick Goddard who has supported animal causes.

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