SALEM, Ohio – There are no statistics that say how big of a problem underground dog fighting is in Ohio. The problem is big enough, however, for Gov. Bob Taft to act.
Last August, Taft formed the Ohio Dog Fighting Task Force, co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Maureen O’Connor and Ohio Agriculture Director Fred L. Dailey, to eliminate dog fighting in Ohio. The task force is close to submitting a list of recommendations to the General Assembly after conducting research into the problem.
New laws. The task force’s legislative committee will propose several recommendations to lawmakers seeking new laws or changes to old ones.
One of the draft recommendations is to redefine the term ‘dog fighting.’ Under current law, the term is very general, said Bill Hedrick, Columbus assistant city attorney and committee member. The committee’s recommended definition is more specific and makes it easier to also prosecute people viewing a dog fight, which the current law fails to do, Hedrick said.
Finding funds. To offset the thousands of dollars it takes to investigate a dog fight, the committee is suggesting an additional $1 fee be collected on all fines of an unlicensed animal. This will only punish the irresponsible dog owner, Hedrick said.
The task force public awareness committee will submit recommendations that may be the biggest step in eradicating the problem: notifying the public that it is a problem.
Help the dogs. The committee wants lawmakers to establish toll-free number for people to report any suspicions of dog fighting. The tip line could offer rewards for successful prosecution of dog fighting and allow anonymity of the callers, the committee said.
The committee will also suggest animal shelters be built to hold dogs seized in dog fighting investigations. Many dog wardens do not currently have the space or types of kennels to house animals used in dog fighting, the committee said.
Create awareness. The committee also wants a media blitz that will make people aware of dog fighting. Bumper stickers, bulletin boards, posters, brochures, television and radio ads and regular news releases about dog fighting will all educate the public about the crime.
After researching dog fighting in Ohio, the resource development and education committee will submit a list of recommendations to help combat dog fighting.
The committee would like to create a dog fighting database at the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The database, which would be a resource to law enforcement, would keep track of dog fighting arrests and complaints.
Microchip dogs. The committee also recommends that microchips be implanted under the skin of confiscated dogs for future identification.
The committee also seeks to increase the criminal penalty for those who participate in dog fighting. Currently, dog fighting is a fourth degree felony, which is punishable by six to 18 months in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000. The committee wants more jail time for dog fighters. They seek to upgrade dog fighting to a third degree felony, which is punishable by one to five years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
“It will put more teeth in the law,” said Andy Appelfeller, Marion County commissioner and committee member.
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