Within the span of just a few days, a very active and effective animal-rights group, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, celebrated a pair of significant wins:

  • A legislative victory in the Ohio House increasing penalties for animal fighting
  • A well-attended gathering of animal-rights advocates at the grand opening of Petland in Grove City

OVCA Treasurer Mary O’Connor-Shaver is optimistic the House-backed legislation’s future in the state Senate is bright.

“We believe the passage of HB 215 in the Ohio House represents a balanced, common-sense approach to dealing with criminal activities that surround cockfighting, and also addresses the inhumane treatment of the animals being used in this blood sport,” she said. “We are confident the bill will pass by a wide margin in the Ohio Senate.”

The modified and dilapidated mobile home above is an example of the deplorable conditions some breeders keep their dogs in. A result of the OVCA’s rally Feb. 27 at the grand opening of the Grove City Petland store was the cancellation of three of five breeders who hold USDA breeder’s licenses. The owner of this site, Malcom Jennings, continues to hold a USDA license.

The modified and dilapidated mobile home above is an example of the deplorable conditions some breeders keep their dogs in. A result of the OVCA’s rally Feb. 27 at the grand opening of the Grove City Petland store was the cancellation of three of five breeders who hold USDA breeder’s licenses. The owner of this site, Malcom Jennings, continues to hold a USDA license.

The purpose of the Feb. 27 event at Petland was to demand that suppliers of puppies to Grove City pet stores be limited to animal shelters, rescues and humane society shelters.

“OVCA helped lead this peaceful rally and we do feel it was a huge success,” said O’Connor-Shaver. “We were also able to secure additional information during the grand opening confirming the identities of five of the breeders supplying puppies to Petland.”

OVCA represents more than 77,000 Ohioans in 81 counties seeking “to address issues impacting the health and safety of companion animals,” which are defined under Ohio Revised Code as any animal that resides in a residential dwelling, or cat or dog regardless of where they reside. The 501 (c)4 group aims to strengthen laws for food, shelter and what defines animal cruelty at the misdemeanor and felony levels.

O’Connor-Shaver said it is important for legislators to fully appreciate the fact that animals are not simple beings reacting on instinct alone.

“We hope to move Ohio toward recognizing in the (Ohio Revised) Code that animals are sentient beings – they feel pain, they experience hardship, much in the way an individual can feel hardship and that pain.”

While O’Connor-Shaver lauds the efforts of other groups assisting pets and owners, she said legislation is the basis for strong and consistent enforcement, thus her goal was to cut to the heart of the many issues that result in unwanted, neglected and abused animals.

“I hoped to get a grassroots community engaged outside of animal rescue and really get them actively involved in contacting their elected officials, particularly at the state level,” she said. “Our biggest challenge is to get folks to move from rescue to advocacy and getting engaged in the process which can influence legislation to help these animals.”

She doesn’t mince words when describing why legislative wins are few and far between.

“It’s all about money and protecting special interests and protecting industries that produce a great deal of profit,” she said. “Puppy mill breeding in Holmes County, which is ground zero for puppy mill breeding, generated more than $9 million in 2009. It employs a lot of people and keeps a lot of people in power, and that’s just not a boat anyone wants to rock. Their definition of animal cruelty is very different than those who don’t keep their animals in a cage the size of a dishwasher pretty much 24/7 for the six or seven years of their life and breed them every heat cycle. The high-volume breeders have no problem with that. They have no problem maintaining the very weak federal and state laws.”

She also acknowledges that those on the right of the political spectrum are sometimes less than supportive.

“It’s not necessarily a partisan issue, but you do see much of the siding of very, very weak laws tend to be more of Republican themes, although there are Republicans who side with protecting and increasing the protections for companion animals in Ohio. But it does tend to attract more conservative-themed groups such as the National Rifle Association, the Sportsman’s Alliance and the Ohio Farm Bureau, which are major special interest groups that influence companion animal legislation at the state level.

For more information visit Ohio Voters for Companion Animals and sign up to receive regular emails which are fact-packed and informative. — Tim Picard

Tim Picard and his wife live on a few acres in Morrow County. They were rescued by horses, chickens, a bunch of barn cats – all strays or feral – and rescue dogs.