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Pushing for tougher animal cruelty laws in Akron

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AKRON - Akron City Council heard public feedback on proposed changes to the city's animal cruelty laws at a packed meeting Monday evening. The proposed ordinance spells out penalties for mistreating animals and increases restrictions on shelters and tethering. The law is modeled after a similar one that passed in the City of Cleveland earlier this year.

Akron Police Sgt. Kris Beitzel, who pushed for the measure, said current city laws aren't strong enough to protect animals. The changes would add language requiring owners to provide shelter from heat and cold. Beitzel said that would help dogs like "Zuz," who was rescued and nursed back to health after being left outside for hours in subzero temperatures in February.

"He was just half frozen, cold and shivering," she said. "Animals have a special place in my heart because they are completely defenseless. It's completely up to us to take care of them."

The proposal adds language regarding animal negligence and tethering. Under the section on negligence, the law spells out requirements for outdoor shelter structures, including that they be clean, enclosed, insulated and elevated at least two inches off of the ground. The tethering section bans tying up animals for more than six hours per day, for longer than two hour intervals, and between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. It also requires tethers be at least 20-feet long.

"It makes it more powerful, gives it more teeth," said Ward 7 Councilman Donnie Kammer, who sponsored the ordinance. "Nobody wants to see animals left outside with no food, no water, chained up for hours and hours without care."

At the packed council meeting, several animal rights groups spoke out in support of the changes. However, some oppose the law. One person spoke out against the tethering restrictions, particularly the length requirement.

Violators would potentially face a misdemeanor charge, with penalties ranging up to a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail.

"We're not out here to take everybody's dogs. We just want to educate them and make them comply," Beitzel said.

Council is expected to vote on the measure at its meeting on April 6.