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There Ought To Be A Law: Felony Animal Abuse

CINCINNATI (Rich Jaffe) -- A local rescue group helps a dog that was found in horrible shape.

The emaciated female shepherd mix is being treated by a vet after being found in the Middletown area this week.  She was starved.  Believe it or not, if you place an animal in a situation like this, you can walk away with just a fine.  Right now that's the law in Ohio.  But prosecutors may get a powerful new weapon to battle those who hurt defenseless animals.
   
In court recently on six counts of animal cruelty, Harold Ray Alexander who also goes by the name "Tosha," should probably consider himself lucky.  That's because authorities were only able to charge him with misdemeanor crimes.  Experts say the more than 60 small dogs rescued from his Price Hill home in February were criminally neglected, living in feces with matted fur and soaked in urine.  All of them in need of medical care.

Right now though,  felony charges for animal abuse are extremely rare in Ohio.  A situation that could be changing, and with good reason, soon.  Animal lovers and voters in Ohio are fed up and outraged with cases like the story of Joseph.  The pitiful, starving, German Shepherd was tied to a Middletown tree for as long as four years.

Meg Melampy rescued Joseph, "It was heartbreaking, just to wipe off all the bugs that were on him.  His odor was just horrible....just rot.  He was just sitting there with his head hanging low.  You could see his demeanor was very much, 'I can't go on any further.'"
   
Local 12's Rich Jaffe met Joseph a few days after his rescue, and he's honestly never seen an animal in such bad shape that was still alive.  Riddled with heart-worms and infections, the sweet dog's tragic story spawned international outrage and protest.  Supporters gathered more than 33,000 signatures from around the world urging Ohio legislators to make abuse like this a felony.
   
After pleading guilty to misdemeanor animal abuse Joseph's owner, Jeremy Shane Temple, served five days in jail, was ordered to pay court costs, fines and the vet bills.  In response to cruelty cases like this, Cleveland State Representative Bill Patmon and others came up with Ohio House Bill 274.  It's nicknamed "Goddard's Law" for Cleveland Meteorologist and animal activist, Dick Goddard.
   
If passed, HB-274  would create felony charges for any person who knowingly causes, "Serious physical harm to a companion animal."

State Representative Bill Patmon (D- Cleveland) said, "What we found is people pay no attention to the idea you might get a misdemeanor charge for killing a companion animal. Thought that was not the way to run a railroad if you will, and so we fashioned the law with the help of Dick Goddard and PAWS and some other folks and we pushed hard and we got it through the House."

The bill now sits in the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Harold Dates of the Cincinnati SPCA said, "What it does is stress the importance of putting people in jail and fining them heavily if they abuse an animal. They don't get off with a slap on the wrist."

Felony animal abuse laws will hold everyone to a higher bar because people agree, there ought to be a law.
  
Joseph was eventually adopted by a loving family and is still recovering. 

CLICK HERE to go to a website where you can find your State Senator and let him or her know how you feel about the issue.

Follow Rich Jaffe on Twitter @rajaffe and LIKE him on Facebook

Video HERE
 

 

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