Sara Carruthers. ARCHIVE PHOTO

Hamilton lawmaker’s first bill targets animal abuse, claiming it's how abusers ‘get their courage’

The Hamilton Republican jointly introduced House Bill 33 last week with Assistant Majority Whip Laura Lanese, R-Grove City. It would require automatic reporting by a veterinarian or specified social service or counseling professional when abuse of a companion animal is suspected. It would also require that the report be made to a law enforcement officer, humane society agent or animal control professional.

And if the mandatory reporter suspects a child or an older adult lives with the alleged abuser of a companion animal, they are required to “immediately report” that, too.

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“It has been found that many people who commit terrible crimes against humans start out harming animals,” Carruthers said. “Perhaps we can stop later crimes by stopping abuse in its first stages.”

The bill also amends the Ohio Attorney General’s domestic violence program to use money collected from civil penalties to arrange temporary shelter or other support for companion animals of domestic violence victims.

“I have been an advocate for animals all my life, and I intend to do a great deal more for our family pets,” said Carruthers.

Lanese said the link between animal abuse and domestic violence and elder abuse is “well documented”.

“Violent criminals often start their bloodthirsty behavior with animals,” said Lanese in testimony last year. “In fact, one police officer I spoke with said this is how they often get their courage.”

Anyone required to report but fails to do so shall face a $100 civil fine on the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.

The bill received strong support when it was introduced last general assembly, and passed the Ohio House 83-6.

Mary O’Connor-Shaver, a representative with Rescue Me Ohio, testified last March that “veterinarians, veterinary technicians, social service and counseling professionals have a responsibility to the welfare of animals and the public and are often the first to discover animal abuse in a family,” and the organization believes they should “take an active role” in animal abuse and cruelty prevention.

“While some states do not require veterinarians, veterinary technicians, social service and counseling professionals to report animal abuse, (Rescue Me Ohio) supports the adoption of laws requiring these individuals from recklessly failing to report abuse of a companion animal,” she said. “We firmly believe reporting should only be required when client education has failed, when there is no likelihood that client education will be successful, or in situations in which immediate intervention is indicated and only when the law exempts these individuals from civil and criminal liability for reporting.”

House Bill 33 does call for immunity from civil or criminal liability for mandatory reporters “if the person acted in good faith.”

The bill has been referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee, which is chaired by Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp.

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