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Clear the Shelters: Animal abusers put on notice as Ohio pushes for tougher laws

Under current laws, jail time is rare. If Senate Bill 164 passes that will change.

CLEVELAND — We have another week and a half to go in our Clear the Shelters campaign-- a nationwide effort to find forever homes for adoptable pets. 

It’s worth the reminder that some of the animals in our campaign are so deserving of love after being rescued from abuse and terrible living conditions. As the work to save our four-legged friends goes on, so does the battle for justice, so that abusers may never hurt animals again.

When not working, Amy Beichler is most at peace with her dogs. But it’s hard to rest when Beichler knows there is still much work to be done.

“I knew I found my calling because I loved animals from the moment I can remember,” said Beichler who today is the Executive Director of PAWS Ohio, a non-profit, no-kill organization. Its mission is to rescue, foster, and adopt companion animals in Northeast Ohio.

Beichler’s love of animals has not come without pain. She has witnessed unimaginable harm inflicted upon defenseless creatures.

“It was brutal. It was cruel. It was torture," says Beichler talking about the Highland Heights’ case of 10-month-old yorkie “Coco,” who, last spring, was held underwater and put into a freezer to die.

Phil Savelli of Mentor is charged with 3 counts of cruelty to animals. Savelli has pleaded not guilty to the crime.  Security video, turned over to police, reportedly shows what happened to Coco that day.

“Just imagine how many times it has happened where there have been no security cameras, nothing to capture it, nothing to be a voice for a dog like Coco,” she said.

In 2016, Beichler saw Goddard’s Law signed by then-Governor John Kasich. Named for the beloved late Cleveland Meteorologist Dick Goddard, who dedicated his life to the well-being and care of our “four-foots” as he loved to call them. The law made serious physical harm to a companion animal a felony in the fifth degree. It was a momentous day, but both Beichler and Goddard knew they could do more.

“Over the last five years, the sentencing guidelines in the state of Ohio, it is pretty much presumed that someone who is charged with a felony 5, will not receive jail time,” except in only the most horrific cases, as she added.

That’s where Senate Bill 164 comes in. It provides a fourth-degree felony for anyone who kills a companion animal. And it adds a fifth-degree felony for anyone who aids in the commission of that act. The goal is harsher penalties and more jail time for offenders.

“My love for animals is great, so advocating for them, gives my life a lot of purpose. With this legislation, I feel like we're making a difference,” Beichler said.

Want to know how you can support Ohio Senate Bill 164? Visit Ohio Alliance For Animal Cruelty Reform on Facebook. Learn how you can send a letter to your State Senator and Representative.