CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Dozens of activists rallied on Monday in Public Square where they announced plans for ‘Goddard’s Law’, a new push to protect animals in Ohio.
Those who gathered downtown chanted during their self-described ‘Rally for Reform’ to protect companion animals.
“We are asking for felony provisions in the law,” said Amy Beichler from the Public Animal Welfare Society of Ohio, or PAWS. “Right now, animal cruelty is a misdemeanor. You can shoot a dog, kill a dog, and pretty much get a slap on the wrist if it’s your first time, you know, abusing an animal.”
Beichler gathered with supporters to kick off Animal Cruelty Awareness Month while drawing attention to some recent high-profile animal abuse cases in Northeast Ohio.
Forest is a dog who survived after he was shot and found tied to a tree in a park in Cleveland Heights. Along with Herbie, an emaciated dog discovered in Lorain, the two have become symbols of what animal activists said is a bigger problem in Ohio, the inability to impose harsh punishments on abusers.
FOX 8’s Dick Goddard, a longtime supporter of animals, is backing the new legislation that shares his name. The bill is in the works in the Ohio State Legislature and supporters said it would make the punishment fit the crime.
“We’ve gotta do it,” said Goddard. “We gotta hop into the 21st century as far as animal abuse goes, we’ve gotta get it into a felony category and with everybody’s help, by golly we’re gonna do it.”
Beichler said the bill has a good chance of becoming law with Dick’s support.
“I love Dick Goddard, I mean, I absolutely adore him, his passion and his love for animals, we’re a kindred spirit," she said.
Supporters have tried to pass similar bills before but they said the time is right for a change.
“Because animals give unconditional love,” said Bridget Brown, of Twinsburg. “I mean, people are people but animals are there for you no matter what and to see how people can treat them, it’s just sad.”
State Representative Bill Patmon said the law is being written to make farmers exempt but it would address the problem in bigger cities where most of the abuse takes place.
“No more cruelty here in Ohio,” said Patmon, who spoke briefly at Monday’s event.
Patmon said supporters should have more information on the future of Goddard’s Law within a few months.
“If you abuse an animal, you’ll abuse a child, your spouse,” said Goddard. “We have to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.”