Butler County sheriff says animal cruelty should be a felony, current penalties aren't enough

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- After a string of animal abuse cases in the Tri-Sate, the Butler County sheriff announced Wednesday he believes animal cruelty charges in Ohio should be a felony.

Sheriff Richard K. Jones, who is also the county dog warden, said he is in favor of changing the law to make cruelty to animals a felony offense instead of a second-degree misdemeanor.

Currently, animal cruelty in Ohio is punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail. But Jones said that just isn’t enough.

“Companion animals, such as pet dogs and cats, are totally dependent on their human owners for food, shelter, and safety,” Jones said. “If someone purposely denies care for that pet or treats it in a cruel or tortuous manner, they deserve to have a penalty that more appropriately fits their actions.”

Jones said his announcement Wednesday was fueled by a recent abuse case involving an emaciated pit bull in Middletown named Dee.

Dee was found emaciated and in distress at a home’s backyard on Navaho Street in Middletown in September, authorities said.

Bert Brashear, 38, pleaded guilty Monday to two misdemeanor charges in the case. Police said Brashear moved away and left the dog behind.

He later signed Dee over to the Butler County Animal Friends Humane Society where she is currently being rehabilitated.

Earlier this month, Middletown man Jeremy Shane Temple was fined $25 after police said he chained his German shepherd to a tree for four straight years .

The dog, now named Joseph, was starved, infected and physically abused, authorities said. He is expected to make a full recovery.

During Brashear’s hearing Monday, animal rights protesters made their presence known outside Middletown Municipal Court expressing their anger toward both recent abuse cases and the current law in place for cruelty charges.

And in a letter submitted to various Ohio legislators Tuesday, Jones said he agrees with their frustrations.

“We’ve got to do something to try to stop the senseless ways that some people treat their pets,” Jones said. “There’s just no excuse for mistreating a defenseless animal.”

Jones is in support of H.B 274, legislation currently under consideration hat calls for tougher animal cruelty laws that elevate the offense to felony levels.

Jones is asking all 88 sheriffs in Ohio to draft or back the legislation.

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