Ohio lawmakers pushing to stiffen penalties for animal abusers

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CLEVELAND (WJW) – A bill is currently in Ohio’s Senate that would deliver harsher penalties to those who abuse animals.

“I’m a dog owner. I think it’s outrageous that we constantly see these cases of animal abuse and we all ask questions. Why? Why can’t we get the laws toughened in Ohio?” said Ward 3 Cleveland City Councilman Mike Polensek.

This is an emotional issue for Polensek. In an effort to take action, he introduced the emergency resolution co-sponsored by councilman Kerry McCormack to support the bill.

“This is a state action. We are demanding the increase in penalties for people involved in this activity,” Polensek said.

Ohio Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko is cosponsoring the bipartisan Senate Bill 164 with Sen. Jay Hottinger to update Goddard’s Law. 

“We’ve tried to change the penalties to make them just a little more severe and take them from being a misdemeanor to a felony and recognizing the fact that, you know, we’re not giving you second chances anymore,” Yuko said.

Ward 12 City Councilman Anthony Brancatelli, also a pet owner, has been working with Polensek and supports the resolution. 

“There was an offer to make this harsher the first time around. It didn’t get put in there. We’re starting to see that it’s gotten too lax so now we want to step it up a little bit and support the intent of what Dick Goddard’s law was,” Brancatelli said.

He says the bill would also help deal with other crimes across the state. 

“Over 70% of the folks who are committing these animal cruelty crimes are doing other crimes as well,” Brancatelli said.

Yuko says seeing support from Ohio’s municipalities and constituents across the state does help. 

“It enhances our messaging that you know what, this is important for not just one small area… It’s for the entire state,” Yuko said.

City council members say they want Cleveland to send a strong message to Columbus and hope that other municipalities follow suit.

“It shows where we’re at in the city of Cleveland. We want action, we want the laws toughened, we want the penalties toughened,” said Polensek.

The bill is currently in committee. Yuko hopes to see it pass this session.

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