Ohio’s Animal Welfare Challenge
Nationwide, the majority of all households include at least one animal; and polls continue to show that the public cares deeply about animal welfare. Events such as natural disasters shed light on the depth of the human-animal bond. For example, Hurricane Katrina showed how a kind and caring society responds to suffering of humans and animals alike. Many human victims, whose love for their own animals was so strong, put themselves at risk to save their pets. The human-animal bond extends beyond animals we personally know. Society recognizes that we have a responsibility to all animals–companion animals, farm animals and wildlife–and that we must be the voice for the voiceless.
In 2012, Ohio ranked 45th in the nation for animal welfare protection according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s annual ranking. Media exposure has driven some positive change in Ohio. However, national news exposed the state’s lack of protection for exotic animals when an exotic pet dealer near Zanesville was found dead; and the exotic animals he owned had been freed and had to be killed. This nationally televised tragedy finally forced the passing of an exotics ban in Ohio. State media attention to the horrific condition of dogs kept in Ohio puppy mills finally led to the passage of puppy mill regulations. The threat of a statewide ballot initiative forced the Governor’s office to come to the table to negotiate the creation of a Livestock Care Standards Advisory Board and standards of practice. However, these successes came only after nearly a decade of advocacy efforts and public pressure.
Though Ohio has had a notorious reputation for its weak animal protection laws, over the past several years, the state rose to the rank of 29 after the passage of puppy mill regulations (Ohio Commercial Dog Breeding Advisory Board); the exotics species ban; the promulgation of livestock care standards; and the passage of bills that enhanced felony cruelty penalties, provided for pet protective orders, and criminalized bestiality and felony cockfighting. There is now opportunity to build on this momentum of the past decade and move Ohio into the forefront of animal protection, using recent success as a solid foundation to build on. There are still critical animal welfare issues to address in Ohio. Many of these issues also impact the human condition in regard to domestic, physical, and sexual violence; public safety; and quality of life. Ohio still faces great challenges with puppy mills; animal hoarding; blood sports; chaining and tethering of animals in extreme weather; breed-specific discrimination; companion, equine, and farm animal cruelty; the disregard for feral and non-owned community animals; and the need to reduce the population of homeless animals, thus reducing the euthanasia rate of companion animals in Ohio’s shelters. Ohio has much progress to make to be able to claim the status of a humane state that enhances the quality of life for all.