April 6th was Companion Animal Lobby Day in Ohio, when animal advocates around the state met with legislators in Columbus. The central focus of the day was NITRO’S LAW which seeks to make animal abuse a felony in Ohio. Ohio is currently only one of four states where animal abuse is still a misdemeanor. Nitro’s law was introduced in February of 2010 as House Bill 70, and finally died in committee in December. It was reintroduced in January of this year as House Bill 108
In preparation for lobby day, my friend Karen and I put together a presentation detailing why Nitro’s Law is so important. I gathered information and photographs from animal cruelty and abuse cases that occurred during 2009 and 2010 , and Karen did the creative work.
One of the things that struck me as I gathered the information for the presentation, was how many judges, after imposing a fine and slapping an animal abuser on the hand, had sentenced the individual to perform community service at an animal shelter.
I don’t understand the thought process of these judges.
Do they sentence child abusers and pedophiles to community service at day care centers? Do they sentence rapists to community service at women’s centers?
Of course not.
Because the law seeks to protect the victims and potential victims in cases of child abuse or rape. You don’t dangle temptation in the face of those criminals, instead, you seek to keep them far away from situations that may trigger their aberrant behavior. Courts even issue restraining orders and restrictions as to where pedophiles are allowed to live.
So what is the judge thinking that puts animal abusers into a situation where they are hands-on with the very creatures they have tortured, abused or neglected? I’m not a psychologist…I don’t even play one on TV; but even I can see that making an animal abuser clean up animal feces is not in the least likely to be rehabilitative. Wouldn’t the very nature of that make them hate animals more? And how fair is it for the shelter employees and volunteers who are there because they love animals to have to work with a person who they know has hurt animals?
There’s no doubt that Ohio needs stronger penalties for animal abuse, but it appears that Ohio also needs to educate the judges who keep court -ordering these ridiculous and misguided “punishments”. They clearly have no idea how to punctuate a sentence.