Columbus, OH—Today, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law HB 33, a bill to expand the cross-reporting of abuse of both animals and people. The legislation requires veterinarians, social service professionals, and counselors who encounter abused companion animals to report their observations to law enforcement or animal control officers. Moreover, law enforcement and animal control officers must notify social service professionals if a child or senior citizen resides with an alleged animal abuser. The law also adds dog wardens to the list of mandated reporters of child abuse.
The relationship between animal cruelty and other forms of family violence has been firmly established. For instance, experts estimate that from 48 percent to 71 percent of battered women have pets who also have been abused or killed. Ohio joins the majority of states that require cross-reporting by the veterinary, social service, and/or law enforcement communities, which could improve interventions and help prevent future cases of animal abuse and family violence.
“As more professionals working in the community are alerted to the possible abuse of animals, children, and the elderly, more lives will be saved,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “AWI has long encouraged social service and humane law enforcement agencies to collaborate more and share information to better protect both human and animal victims.”
Liss added: “We are grateful to the bill’s House sponsors, Reps. Laura Lanese and Sara Carruthers, for recognizing the need to enhance communication among these professionals, and for their determination in moving this bill across the finish line.”
“I’m proud to have sponsored legislation that not only protects companion animals, but also creates another tool for identifying and preventing family violence,” said Lanese (R-Grove City). “By increasing communication between law enforcement officers and social service professionals, this bill will help keep Ohioans safer.”
“One study found that over 70 percent of people charged with cruelty to animals were known by police for other violent behavior, including homicide,” said Carruthers (R-Hamilton). “These alarming statistics emphasize the need for this law.”
Animal and family violence in several Ohio communities increased during the COVID-19 shutdown, mirroring global trends, according to Vicki Deisner, AWI’s Ohio representative. Deisner previously testified before both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly about the co-occurrence of human and animal abuse.
“Pet lovers have a pair of dedicated friends in Representatives Laura Lanese and Sara Carruthers,” she said. “They worked tirelessly with the Animal Welfare Institute to build a diverse alliance of stakeholders to get this important legislation passed. These included animal welfare organizations, veterinarians, domestic violence advocates, social workers, law enforcement, humane societies, humane enforcement officers, and prosecutors. Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved HB 33, which exemplifies their commitment to the safety and well-being of Ohio’s citizens and their animal friends.”
A broad array of organizations endorsed HB 33, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Humane Society of the United States, the National Link Coalition, Ohio Animal Advocates, Red Rover, and others.
Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, firstname.lastname@example.org