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Ohio Animal Cruelty Law seminar in Canfield

angels for animals header

Angels for Animals is presenting a seminar: “Animal Cruelty in Ohio, 2014” in Canfield, Ohio on Friday, May 16, 2014, starting at 9 a.m.   Attorney Jeff Holland, who has prosecuted animal cruelty cases for 23 years, will be the presenter.

The course is open to law enforcement officers, including humane agents, attorneys and others interested in animal welfare.  $10 for non-attorneys, $120 for attorneys who will receive 6 CLE credits.

See for more information.



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Dog found hanging from car by its leash in Brunswick

State v. Nathan Vapenik, a case we prosecuted for the Medina County SPCA, jointly investigated with Brunswick Animal Control.

Defendant was found guilty of two counts of companion animal cruelty for keeping two emaciated, dehydrated dogs in his car.  He tied their leashes to the steering wheel, and left the windows cracked open.  The dogs were discovered when one was seen hanging by his throat out of thecar window.  Fortunately, they were rescued in time.

The Defendant was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 80 of which were suspended.  He served 10 days.  He was fined $350 per count ($700 total.)  He is also required to pay $498 in restitution to the SPCA.  Finally, Defendant was placed on probation for 5 years.  During that time, he is not permitted to possess, own or reside with any animals, and he is subject to random inspections.

Many thanks to Humane Agent Mary Jo Johnson and Animal Control Officer Mike Kellums for their good work on this case.

photos of 2 dogs

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Dog neglect in Lake County

GeishaIn1State v. Marcus Ranson, a case we prosecuted in the Painesville Municipal Court for the Lake Humane Society. Ranson was found guilty of two counts of companion animal cruelty regarding two dogs. Both were assessed as Body Condition Score 1. Both were surrendered to the Lake Humane Society, and have fully recovered.

Ranson is prohibited from owning, possessing or residing with any animals for five years, the maximum period of probation for this offense. He is subject to random inspections by the Lake Humane Society, and must pay restitution for the care of the dogs. If he violates any of the terms of his sentence, he faces 60 days in jail.

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Ohio HB 274 “Goddard’s Law” Assigned to Senate Agriculture Committee

HB 274 “Goddard’s Law” has been assigned to the Ohio Senate Agriculture Committee. A sponsor hearing must be scheduled for this Bill to move on.

HB 274:
• Prohibits any person from knowingly causing “serious physical harm” to a companion animal.
• Enhances the penalty for any person knowingly torturing, tormenting, needlessly mutilating or maiming, cruelly beating, poisoning, needlessly killing, or committing an act of cruelty against a companion animal if the violation proximately causes the animal’s death.
• Prohibits any person who confines or is the custodian or caretaker of a companion animal from negligently torturing, tormenting, or committing an act of cruelty against the companion animal.
• Prohibits an owner, manager, or employee of a dog kennel who confines or is the custodian or caretaker of a companion animal from negligently torturing, tormenting, or committing an act of cruelty against the companion animal.
• Requires the Attorney General, Veterinary Medical Licensing Board, Board of Pharmacy, and Ohio Veterinary Medical Association to collaborate in developing resources to assist veterinarians in identifying clients who may use their animals to secure opioids for abuse.

Now is a great time to write Committee Chairman Cliff Hite and politely request that a sponsor hearing be scheduled and to ask the committee members for their “Yes” vote on Goddard’s Law! Contact the committee here:

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H&M Presents: Ohio Animal Welfare Cruelty & Neglect Investigations: A Legal Perspective

The Humane Society of Greater Dayton hosts:
J. Jeffrey Holland
Holland & Muirden, Attorneys at Law

Join us for an informational session on animal cruelty and neglect laws and cases.

Topics include:
• Ohio’s Primary Animal Cruelty Laws
• Notice of Seizure and the Probable Cause Hearing
• Dog Liability Laws – Civil & Criminal
• Fighting Animals & Other Cruelty Laws
• Penalties for Animal Cruelty
• Search and Seizure
• The Elegant Cruelty Report
• Exotics
• Nitro’s Law
• Legislative Updates
• Being a Better Sleuth
• Vicious and Dangerous Dogs
• Case Law Overview

• Thursday, February 6, 2014
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
• Friday, February 7, 2014
8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Sinclair Community College
Criminal Justice Training Academy
214 S. Wilkinson, Dayton, Ohio 45402

Class size is limited! Ticket Information.
Cost is $100.

For more information, contact Brian Weltge at (937) 262-5928.

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Medina, Ohio Attorney Learns About Psychiatric Disorders in Children

Attorney Janis Zachman recently attended a class on psychiatric disorders in children.

The curriculum included information on internalizing/emotional disorders (such as anxiety or mood disturbances), externalizing/behavioral disorders (such as disruptive disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)  and trauma based disorders (such as reactive attachment), along with proven treatments.

The class was in fulfillment of her recertification as an Ohio Guardian ad Litem.  

This information is timely in our community as several of our area high schools deal with teen suicides.

Parents, child advocates and high school students are encouraged to learn more about depression and other indicators of risk for teen suicide at an E4 Youth Summit, sponsored by Medina County United Way on February 18-19 at the Blair Center in Westfield.    E4 stands for Equip, Educate. Empower and Engage.

All Medina County high school students are eligible to apply to participate.  Applications are available at each high school or by email from the United Way at

For more information on teen suicide in Medina County, see Medina Gazette: United Way: County failing to address teen suicide

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What if…? Ohio pet trusts provide care for animals when their owners can’t.

Have you ever been concerned about what would happen to your pet if something unexpected happened to you? Ohio law now allows pet owners to create a trust to provide for the care and maintenance of pets if the owner can no longer care for them, be it due to death or other incapacitation. This type of trust is protected by statute and is legally enforceable (Ohio Revised Code Section 5804.08). Commonly known as “pet trusts,” these trusts can cover any type of pet (including tarantulas). A pet trust is a legal vessel that describes your wishes regarding the care of your pet and distributes provided funds to enable that care. A pet trust can be created during the owner’s lifetime or created at the time of the owner’s death via a will.

Some important items pet owners should consider when thinking about forming a pet trust:
1. Who will you name as the trustee? What about an alternate? The trustee is the person charged with following the directions set forth in your trust. The trustee may be paid a reasonable fee, or may serve without compensation.

2. Who will be the caretaker for your pets? The caretaker may be the same as or different from the trustee. If the caretaker and trustee are different people, the trustee could have the authority to remove the pets from one caretaker and appoint a new caretaker if the trustee is dissatisfied with their care.

3. Specific instructions you might have for the care of your pets. You may wish to specify whether or not the caretaker should be permitted to allow animals to breed, for instance, or whether they should be kept in a private residence, as opposed to a rescue facility. Typically, a pet owner will give the caretaker wide discretion to provide care in a manner that the caretaker sees fit, in his/her best judgment.

4. The amount you are willing to pay out of the trust to the caretaker for providing care for your animals.

5. The person or organization who will receive any remaining trust assets upon termination of your trust (which should be at the death of the last animal covered by the trust).

Once these items are resolved, you will need to decide what assets (monies, etc.) you are willing to use to fund the trust.

Pet trusts allow you to plan for your pet’s future and ensure that your pet will be cared for in the way you desire. Pet owners can finally create and control the answer to the troubling “what if…?” question and have peace of mind about the care of their pets.

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Guilty verdict in kitten abandonment case, Ashland, Ohio

State v. Joyce Amos, a case investigated by the Ashland County Sheriff’s Department and the Ashland County Humane Society.  Defendant was convicted after trial of abandoning a 5 week old kitten by a dumpster at a veterinarian’s office.kitten RIP

Amos was seen at rear of the building after hours putting a live animal trap in her trunk.  The witness turned her car around to ask Amos what she was doing.  Before she was able to turn, Amos drove away, running  stop sign and proceeding at a high rate of speed.  The witness caught up, got the license number, and reported it to the Sheriff’s Department.

Amos admitted to the Deputy that she left the kitten by the dumpster.  She said that she was not the owner of the kitten, which she found abandoned on her porch.  She said she saw other kittens there, and a cat she assumed was a mother cat.  She assumed that either the mother cat would take in the kitten, or that the veterinarian would do so the next day.

The kitten, named “Firecracker,” was retrieved almost immediately.  Despite being provided with excellent care, it died within a few days.

The law provides that an “owner or keeper” of a domestic animal may not abandon that animal.  The central legal question was whether Amos was either an “owner” or a “keeper.”

Judge John Good pointed out that there are no other written appellate decisions which are directly on point on this legal issue in the State of Ohio.  He agreed with our position, that a person becomes the “keeper” of a domestic animal as soon as he/she voluntarily exerts control over it.  Amos was found guilty.  She was sentenced to $150 fine, plus restitution for fees to the  Veterinary Clinic in the amount of $170.50.

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Pellet gun dog shooter convicted in Brunswick

State v. David Scott, a case we prosecuted for the Brunswick Hills Police Department.
Dog with gunshot
David Scott shot and killed a dog named Patches with a pellet gun. Patches was trespassing on his property, but the dog was at least 60 feet away from him and was in the act of departing the property. Scott claims that the dog was fighting with his own dog who was tethered just prior to the shooting. The officer examined Scott’s dog and saw no evidence of injuries.

Scott was found guilty of Injuring Animals, a 2nd degree misdemeanor.

This case presented some difficulties for a number of reasons. Generally, one cannot be convicted of an animal cruelty offense if the act was deemed to be “necessary” or “justifiable.” We knew that some people might find the shooting justifiable as a means for preventing future trespasses, especially since the weapon was a pellet gun, not a more powerful firearm. Pellet guns can be lethal, as in in this case, where the pellet penetrated the dog’s abdomen.

Defendant was fined $500 and was ordered to pay restitution to the owner of Patches.

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Pit Bull bans still in effect in Ohio cities – How is BSL legal?

In 2012, Ohio joined 49 states and nearly every country in the world when it removed its breed-specific language from state law. “Pit bull” type dogs were no longer considered “vicious” from birth. Today, the Ohio Revised Code defines a “vicious dog” as a dog that has killed or caused serious injury to any person without provocation.

However, the new law did not overturn municipality pit bull bans, like those in Warrensville Heights, Lakewood, Parma, and Garfield Heights. Other cities, such as Cleveland Heights, label all pit bull type dogs as “vicious” and impose certain keeping requirements on the breed(s).

In Ohio, municipal corporations (cities and villages) have certain powers granted to them in Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution. This is called “home rule.” Article XVIII, § 3 of the Ohio Constitution provides that “[m]unicipalities shall have authority to exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within their limits such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations, as are not in conflict with general laws.” The new state law did not interfere with home rule, allowing cities to create and enforce breed-discriminatory language.

Breed-discriminatory laws raise questions about the protection of dog owners’ Fourteenth Amendment rights (due process and equal protection). In addition to lawsuits based on constitutional issues, lawsuits have been filed by owners who claim their dog was incorrectly labeled as one of the banned breeds. About half of all dogs in the United States are mixed breeds, making visual breed identification highly inaccurate.

Recently, residents of Ohio towns enforcing breed-specific legislation (BSL) have renewed their fight to overturn these bans and enact breed-neutral laws. Last month, a grassroots group named “Animal Guardians for a Prosperous Parma” began lobbying Parma’s City Council to repeal its long-standing ban on Pit Bulls in favor of breed-neutral dog regulations that place responsibility on reckless owners. Similarly, in Lakewood, citizens have been fighting the city’s Pit Bull ban since it was first enacted in 2008. Voters are considering a petition to put the ordinance on the ballot for the May 2014 election.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control, which monitors dog bite activity, has commented that discriminatory breed bans are “largely ineffective” and “often a waste of public resources.” The CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. Their message is clear–any dog can bite, regardless of its breed. Educate yourself and your children about dog behavior and proper interactions with dogs, learn to recognize aggressive dog behavior, and properly train your dog by socializing it with people and other animals. Dog bites are best prevented without reliance on inaccurate breed stereotypes.

Read more about this approach via the AVMA here: A community approach to dog bite prevention.

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