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Humane agents powerless to help animals in extremely cold weather



Published: Thu, January 9, 2014 @ 12:10 a.m.

State law does not require animals to be brought inside when temperatures drop

By joe gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Humane agents in Mahoning County have had a hectic three days because of the cold, and one of them says there is not much they can do if an animal is left outside in extreme conditions.

Christopher Flak, a humane agent for the Mahoning County Humane Society, said people need to contact their state representatives to add penalties for animal neglect during extreme weather conditions.

The Ohio Legislature is currently addressing tougher companion animal cruelty legislation.

But for now, Flak said all state law provides is that animals must have food, water and shelter when left outside.

He said there is no provision requiring animals to be taken inside during extreme weather conditions, such as the extremely low temperatures below zero the last two nights.

Flak said agents answered 107 calls and traveled more than 400 miles, and a lot of those calls were for animals that were left outside.

He was powerless to force the animals to be taken inside, however, because the Ohio Revised Code does not require it.

He said he recommends that they be taken inside, but that is as far as he can go.

“That’s a moral issue. That’s an ethical issue,” Flak said. “We can’t enforce that.”

State Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, who recently pushed through “Nitro’s Law,” which makes the abuse of a companion animal in a kennel a fifth- degree felony, said a bill has recently passed the House that toughens animal laws and would make keeping a pet in extreme conditions against state law.

Gerberry said he urged people to write to state senators to get the law passed.

He said for reasons he can’t explain, there are some state senators who do not believe abuse of an animal is a felony, noting that it took four years to get Nitro’s Law passed.

“I don’t understand the logic,” Gerberry said.

In December the House passed what is known as “Goddard’s Law,” named after Cleveland meteorologist Dick Goddard, but the bill is now awaiting action in the Senate. The bill makes some animal-cruelty cases felonies even for a first offense.

In neighboring Pennsylvania, the law for keeping animals outside in severe weather is similar.

Shelley Rosenberg, an assistant for humane officers at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society in Pittsburgh, said the law in Pennsylvania only requires that companion animals have access to food, water and shelter. There is no requirement that they have to be taken inside during inclement weather, Rosenberg said.

Flak said Mahoning County agents took one dog from a South Side home that was clearly being neglected but that was the only action they were able to take.

Flak, too, urged people who want to change the law to contact lawmakers and ask them to pass legislation that would give humane agents the power to force people who are caring for companion animals to take them inside during extreme weather.


Comments

1southsidedave(4780 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

people are so cruel to pets... makes no sense!

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2Nom_De_Plume(54 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

This article is very misleading. Ohio law does permit the agents or others to act.

1717.13 Any person may protect animal.

When, in order to protect any animal from neglect, it is necessary to take possession of it, any person may do so. When an animal is impounded or confined, and continues without necessary food, water, or proper attention for more than fifteen successive hours, any person may, as often as is necessary, enter any place in which the animal is impounded or confined and supply it with necessary food, water, and attention, so long as it remains there, or, if necessary, or convenient, he may remove such animal; and he shall not be liable to an action for such entry. In all cases the owner or custodian of such animal, if known to such person, immediately shall be notified by him of such action. If the owner or custodian is unknown to such person, and cannot with reasonable effort be ascertained by him, such animal shall be considered an estray and dealt with as such.

The necessary expenses for food and attention given to an animal under this section may be collected from the owner of such animal, and the animal shall not be exempt from levy and sale upon execution issued upon a judgment for such expenses.

While there don't seem to be any criminal penalties associated with the prior section, part of the Animal Cruelty statute could also apply:

959.13 (A)

(1) Torture an animal, deprive one of necessary sustenance, unnecessarily or cruelly beat, needlessly mutilate or kill, or impound or confine an animal without supplying it during such confinement with a sufficient quantity of good wholesome food and water;

(2) Impound or confine an animal without affording it, during such confinement, access to shelter from wind, rain, snow, or excessive direct sunlight if it can reasonably be expected that the animals would otherwise become sick or in some other way suffer. Division (A)(2) of this section does not apply to animals impounded or confined prior to slaughter. For the purpose of this section, shelter means a man-made enclosure, windbreak, sunshade, or natural windbreak or sunshade that is developed from the earth's contour, tree development, or vegetation.[;]

Obviously, no effort went into researching this article. Very disappointing as Gorman is usually pretty good. Also, shame on those humane agents or those advising them for not knowing entirely what they are talking about.

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3irishgirl(2 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

I am sick over the little that is done to protect these animals from their owner's cruelty. The pound is also disgusting and the dogs are treated very badly. Any volunteer who voices any problems is not welcomed back

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4BJ(18 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

Why is this happening? We have humane agents for a reason. So upsetting.

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5BJ(18 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

This just makes my blood boil. I'm curious as to what training the executive director of animal charities has...is he or she a lawyer?? Has the director even been a humane agent?

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6BJ(18 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

I'm glad the vindy did a story on this epidemic. So many dogs are chained, neglected & abused in our area. Animal charities should call other counties & see how they handle humane issues. This shouldn't be happening. I don't believe these humane agents are as powerless as they say. A frozen water source is not acceptable. Nor is a shelter with holes in the roof.

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7BJ(18 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

Nom-De-Plume said it all!!!
Ohio law DOES permit the agents or others to act!
So, if that is the law, why are they so "powerless?"
I hope the Vindy follows up on these questions.

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8BJ(18 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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9BJ(18 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

According to Gary PilcheR of Animal Charities, "... in Ohio, a member of a humane society may require a law enforcement officer, such as a sheriff or police officer, “to arrest any person found violating the laws in relation to cruelty to persons or animals, and to take possession of any animal cruelly treated.” §1717.09. Furthermore, under § 1717.13”
When, in order to protect any animal from neglect, it is necessary to take possession of it, any person may do so. When an animal is impounded or confined, and continues without necessary food, water, or proper attention for more than fifteen successive hours, any person may, as often as is necessary, enter any place in which the animal is impounded or confined and supply it with necessary food, water, and attention, so long as it remains there, or, if necessary, or convenient, he may remove such animal; and he shall not be liable to an action for such entry.
http://downloads.ohiobar.org/conventi...

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10ytowncrazy(34 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

This is just horrible. I don't even know what to say. Clearly something is wrong with this picture.

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11kensgirl(604 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

Animal Charity is now under investigation for operating a facility without a licence. There I said it. The Ohio Board of Veterinary Medicine has cited Tara Musolino recently for running that facility without a proper licence. God's truth. You never saw this crap going on when Perc Kelty ran it. Shame on you Tara and all the vets and workers who have done so much harm there.

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12irishgirl(2 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

Wow. I had no idea about that

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13triciafloyd52(12 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

taking animals in may not be always possible. providing some sort of shelter should be and increasing food for the animal to generate heat is important. water froze outside within 1/2 hr. or less during that cold spell . so finding frozen water is what you would find if it was provided. replacing enough water to prevent dehydration and aid digestion in the cold is important. we made hot soup for our dogs and took it to them with wind chills -35. we had also added extra stray ,not hay, for their shelters. they all appeared better than I expected. gave horses extra hay and watered more often but less so it would not freeze. older one got blanketed. rabbits got pens tarps to break the wind and hold a little heat in. all the cats and strays got extra fat food. more trips outside but that's what it takes in the cold when you have animals. the laws are there to protect the animals when needed but just being outside is not always neglect but it may be . people should not over react with out all the facts. the humane society will do their job if need be and so will the dog warden. people need educated . the laws are there to protect the animals but also must be reasonable to allow humans to do what they must changing

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14sillylilly(6 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

1717.13 Any person may protect animal.

When, in order to protect any animal from neglect, it is necessary to take possession of it, any person may do so. When an animal is impounded or confined, and continues without necessary food, water, or proper attention for more than fifteen successive hours, any person may, as often as is necessary, enter any place in which the animal is impounded or confined and supply it with necessary food, water, and attention, so long as it remains there, or, if necessary, or convenient, he may remove such animal; and he shall not be liable to an action for such entry. In all cases the owner or custodian of such animal, if known to such person, immediately shall be notified by him of such action. If the owner or custodian is unknown to such person, and cannot with reasonable effort be ascertained by him, such animal shall be considered an estray and dealt with as such.

the person taking the animal MUST let the owner know...think how easy that will go...
*knock knock*
hey, im taking your dog, you have it outside
*bang*

people will do some crazy stuff over animals, left outside or not. if you dont let the owner know, thats a theft offense. you do let him know that could very easily turn into a bad violent fight. humane societies have rules and procedures they must follow to protect animals and prosecute animal cruelty. random people other than those appointed to do so can not prosecute animal cruelty charges. and people appointed to do so must abide by the constitution and law/procedure for doing so. come on people, use your head. this whole mahoning county area needs a serious education session.

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15kurtw(848 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

I can't address the situation in Ohio not having personal experience in this State (and not having researched the matter) but I did have an experience last Winter in Sharon with an animal kept outside that I considered to be neglected.

It was a Pit Bull chained to a tree two houses from mine with only a flimsy plastic dog house for shelter. The animal was so powerful and frustrated with the lack of exercise and social stimulation that it repeatedly upended its House with its chain and turned over it's water and food bowl- every time I looked down from my backyard that's what you had- the house on its side- no food, no water- and the poor creature barking and lunging at it's chain.

I complained repeatedly about this to all the authorities in Mercer County- the Dog Warden, The Humane Society and the Sharon Police- and GOT NOWHERE. They came out (several times), looked at the situation, spoke to the owner and then told me there was nothing they could do- because the Minimum State Law requirements had been met- there was Shelter, there was Food, and there was Water.

I pointed out to them what is the point of having a Dog House it it's uninsulated and so flimsily constructed that the dog is able to knock it over which he also did with it's food and water because of the chain circle. I got NOWHERE and the reason is (which most likely is the case in Ohio) the total inadequacy of the law in protecting domestic animals. I'm in many ways a libertarian and don't believe in Governmental Overreach- but here is an exception- a glaring example of how the law is not protecting its vulnerable and weak from Sadists (yes, anybody who would treat an animal that way is a Sadist and the animal should be forcibly removed and the Criminal jailed. We do that in the case of abused children, don't we? Dogs have the same nervous system and feel the same pain).

Yes, I did consider the idea of personal intervention- going over and confronting the owner but I ruled that out for two simple reasons: Number one: I didn't think it would accomplish anything- if the Law couldn't do anything, what could I? Number two: I was afraid of the guy- He was twice my size and looked Mean as Hell- I didn't think getting myself beat up would help the animal and, since then, they have moved.

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16kurtw(848 comments)posted 8 months, 1 week ago

I think the biggest reason we don't have better laws protecting domestic animals in Ohio or Pa. is the legislative clout of Farmers.

Agriculture, including the farming of livestock, is the biggest industry in Ohio and it is a major industry in Pa. as well.

Farmers may be afraid that if tougher laws protecting domestic animals are enacted it may lead to greater restrictions (lead by PETA activists) on the way they treat their Livestock.

When I started writing this, I was all set to finish my Post with a ringing declaration of Animal Rights- that all Animals- whether domestic Pets or Livestock- should be treated humanely- no difference between them at all because they feel the same pain.

Then I remembered one tiny detail- I'm a Meat Eater- two days ago I ate a huge strip steak and earlier today I had sausage sandwiches- those products weren't put on my table by magic- they came from a Slaughterhouse where animals suffer and die.

It may be that the only people that can address this issue- the suffering of animals at the hands of man- without hypocrisy are the Vegans.

And if I thought I had to eat what those people eat the rest of my life- Tofu, Alfalfa Sprouts, and Mashed Yeast- I'd put a gun to my head right now to stop my misery.

I guess I'll end my days as a hypocrite.

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