Thursday, November 18, 2010

Animals Abuse Laws Lax In Ohio, W.Va.

Updated: 7:52 pm EST November 17, 2010
In August, Wetzel County police seized horses and livestock from a New Martinsville farm, living in deplorable conditions and wounded from barbed wire. A husband and wife faced eight counts of animal neglect, but in the end they were ordered to pay court costs and were put on two years probation.
More recently, in Belmont County, police found a horse tied up at a St. Clairsville Burger King, covered in sores, malnourished and neglected. The owner faced neglect and cruelty charges, but NEWS9 learned no charges were ever filed against the man.
The incidents are just two of many disturbing cases of animal abuse that have made headlines across the Ohio Valley, but the animals' owners have received little or no punishment.
"Unfortunately, in the state of Ohio, the humane laws are very lax," said Belmont County dog warden Lisa Williams.
The same goes for West Virginia. The Humane Society of the United States ranks both near the bottom of states with strict animal laws. In Ohio, a first offense is always a misdemeanor; in West Virginia, abuse can be a felony.

"You're really looking for a first offense at 90 days. You rarely see anyone go to jail for six months," said Robin McClelland of the Appalachian Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
McClelland said prosecutors will often "reduce the charges to something unrelated, such as disorderly conduct. So, you tell me, what does disorderly conduct have to do with animal cruelty?"
In Ohio, animal activists are pushing for Nitro's Law, a bill that would make animal abuse a felony. It's already passed in the House of Representatives, but it does have conditions.
"It would only pertain to kennels, boarding and otherwise. It won't apply to the public who owns a dog," McClelland said.
Even so, McClelland said it's still a step in the right direction. In the meantime, activists said population control could greatly reduce the number of abuse and neglect cases.
"Spay and neuter. Reduce the population. It's the No. 1 killer of these animals," she said.


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