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Lawmaker pushes for stronger animal protection


CINCINNATI — A veterinarian who doubles as a legislator is pushing for changes in the state’s animal protection laws to keep pets out of the hands of neglectful owners.

Republican Rep. Shawn Webster of Hamilton wants a law to prohibit judges from returning dogs to irresponsible owners. Webster wants to amend legislation that requires a hearing within 21 days if a live animal is held as evidence.

Webster, at the urging of Butler County Auditor Kay Rogers, came forward after two Butler County dogs, named Hope and China, were found with their tethers embedded in their necks.

China spent five months in an animal shelter before a judge ordered the dog be returned to her owner, Otis Clark Jr., who pleaded no contest to animal cruelty and other charges this month.

Anti-tether regulations would have protected both China and Hope. Having such laws on the books lets people know that keeping dogs chained or tied outside is wrong, said Leland Gordon, executive director of the Animal Friends Humane Society in Butler County.

Tied-up dogs often grow short-tempered or become deranged out of frustration and loneliness, Gordon said.
China, a white shepherd mix, was found with a chain collar embedded in her neck in March. She remained in the Trenton shelter for five months until Clark reclaimed her with a copy of Butler County Area Judge Robert Lyons’ order in hand. Clark has been fined $1,000 and must reimburse the shelter more than $1,500 for her surgery and other costs.

Lyons also prohibited Clark from keeping the dog tied outside and is requiring him to read a book on dog care. A call to Lyons’ office on Saturday wasn’t answered. A home phone number could not be found.

Hope, a black Labrador retriever, was found with a cable embedded in her neck. She spent little time in the shelter because her owner, Lauren Spencer of Trenton, signed papers transferring the dog’s ownership to the Animal Friends Humane Society shortly after she was charged with animal cruelty in April. The dog has been adopted by a Hamilton County family, Gordon said.

Spencer was fined $100 in Middletown Municipal Court and was placed on probation for two years. She will spend 30 days in jail if she violates probation. Spencer also was ordered to reimburse the society for the surgery that removed her dog’s cable.
Middletown recently enacted an anti-tether law, prohibiting anyone from leaving a dog on a stationary mooring for more than 12 straight hours.

“If people aren’t informed enough to know they shouldn’t leave a dog tied up constantly, then more places need laws like Middletown’s. They have the most progressive animal laws in the state,” Gordon said.

Webster said he agrees with the general idea that dogs shouldn’t be returned to owners who are convicted of certain offenses. But he added that “there are all kinds of unintentional situations” that result in serious injuries to pets, including escaping and being run over by cars. He questioned whether otherwise responsible owners in those situations should face punishment.  

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