School closings

Man enters plea in horrific case of animal cruelty

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

LORAIN, Ohio- A Lorain County man stood before a judge and entered a plea in a horrific case of animal cruelty.

Animal rights advocates demonstrated in front of Elyria Municipal Court Thursday morning, demanding justice for an 8-year-old Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix named Ruby.

"Abuse starts with animal abuse on the lowest level and it could escalate to child abuse, spousal abuse and elder abuse," said Mike Smeck, with animal advocate group Nitro Ohio Army.

Joel Ruth, 50, of LaGrange, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of aggravated menacing and another count of cruelty to animals.

According to LaGrange police, last November police responded to a home on South Center Street.  A woman said her husband, Joel Ruth, had been drinking, was covered in blood, and had a knife and shovel with him.

Police said according to his wife, Ruth threatened to slash a relative's throat the same way he had done the dog.  They said when officers searched the home, they found blood all over the property and a shallow grave where Ruby’s body had been buried.

"It's horrendous, especially slashing the dog's throat. That's barbaric; that's gotta be the worst way to die," said Smeck.

Animal rights advocate Mike Smeck sat in the courtroom as Ruth admitted to the crime.

"He was hanging his head, but I think that's because people were there; animal advocates were there looking at him. I don't think he was really remorseful," Smeck said.

Animal rights supporters said they want Ruth to get more than a slap on the wrist.  They hope if a bill named for legendary FOX 8 meteorologist Dick Goddard is passed in Columbus this year, it might deter people from committing this type of crime.

"Goddard's Law would cover severely injuring or killing a companion animal; it would make it a fifth-degree felony," Smeck added.

Smeck said his group plans to circulate petitions, demanding Ruth get the maximum sentence.  Under current Ohio law, that would be six months on each count.

Joel Ruth will be sentenced on February 18.

Click to read more on Goddard’s Law.

Click to read more on Nitro’s Law.