"I'm just excited because that's a big hurdle to come out of committee with a recommended passage and that's what just happened," said Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland.
Rep. Patmon co-sponsored the legislation with Rep. Barbara Sears, R-Monclova Township.
If signed into law, it would redefine companion animal abuse in Ohio and make some cases a felony. Currently, most cases of abuse -- even some of the most severe cases -- are misdemeanors.
"These legislators know it's time, too, and with Mr. Goddard backing this bill, I think they're really paying attention, which is good," said Amy Beichler from the Public Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS Ohio. The organization has worked tirelessly with FOX 8's Dick Goddard to pass the measure. Goddard is a long-time animal advocate who has devoted his career to the cause.
Supporters gathered in the hearing room to show their support for Goddard's Law, including Veronica Dickey from Jackson Township.
"If we can stop animal abuse, if we can stop the abuse at the level of the animals, we can really prevent a lot of child abuse as well as prevent domestic violence," said Dickey.
While many spoke in favor of the bill, opponents were offered time to share their concerns on Wednesday night during the third and final hearing before the committee. The only opposition came in writing from the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
Their statement reads, in part, "Our members feel that the current first degree misdemeanor penalty for these offenses is adequate. We have not done a study on it, but we doubt that judges are fully utilizing the penalties that are available to them under current law... Bills like these, if enacted, add costs not only to the prosecutors' offices but to all aspects of the justice system when there is no real need to do so."
Dick Goddard disagrees and told FOX 8's Mark Zinni, "Everyone who had anything to do with this needs to be congratulated. We're not quite there, but we're close!"
"He's a hero; he really is," said Columbus resident and supporter Zaron Van Meter. "He's a real dog advocate and animal advocate and I think it's wonderful that he's behind it, brought this forward. We need it and I hope it goes through rather quickly; I really do."
The bill now moves to the full Ohio House of Representatives where the bi-partisan support almost certainly means it will pass. Then it moves to the Ohio Senate where the fate of Goddard's Law remains unclear.
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