Mount Vernon Woman Attempting to get Animal Cruelty and Protection Referendum on March Ballot
By Timothy Perry
September 22, 2015 - 12:43 AM
MOUNT VERNON - A Mount Vernon resident is attempting to place a referendum on the ballot to help end animal cruelty and protect animals during extreme weather events, such as excessive cold or heat.
Mount Vernon resident Miriam St. Jean is collecting signatures to put her measure on the March 15, 2016 ballot.
When asked what prompted her to create the referendum, St. Jean said, "We had a frigid, frigid winter and there were reports after reports of dogs freezing to death because of people who didn't care for them properly. I decided to take a look at the law regarding animal cruelty, and found it woefully inadequate. I looked at the City's Ordinance and it was worse than the State Laws".
It was at that point that St. Jean realized something had to change. St. Jean then set out to put better laws on the books.
Ohio's current animal cruelty laws have been criticized for their lack of specificity, which makes animal cruelty cases difficult to prosecute. They do not currently provide specifications on what a well constructed shelter is, nor do they specify what outdoor tethering practices are allowable. Mount Vernon's current animal cruelty ordinance is identical to the state law.
According to St. Jean, her referendum will be "a three-prong law. [It] better describes animal cruelty, animal neglect, and proper leashing, and the sentences attached to each charge". Highlights of the referendum (full text below) include prohibitions against torture or cruelty toward pets, requirements that animals be supplied with adequate food, water, shelter, exercise, necessary veterinary care and protection from "cold, wind, rain, snow, or excessive direct sunlight". It specifies the size and type of materials of which an animal's shelter should be constructed and establishes animal tethering rules.
The law also empowers the courts to remove the animal from the owner's care if they are found to be in violation and allows the courts to sell the animal or place it with a rescue organization.
"I called the Board of Elections, who called Auditor Terry Scott, who conferred with Prosecutor Rob Broeren; between the three of them, they found that it is possible for one person to write their own law (within certain parameters, of course, and needing approved by the Auditor and Prosecutor) and, with a certain number of registered voters' signatures, it could be placed on the ballot for a vote by the people. It's called a 'People's Petition' - So, I figured, I'd write a better law, and get it on the ballot myself," St. Jean said.
Traditionally, local ordinances are passed by the elected City Council and go through a series of committees beforehand, however St. Jean's referendum, which she says was written by her, will be placed directly on the ballot.
St Jean's referendum, if passed, will hold the same effect as a city ordinance and will be in effect everywhere within the city limits of Mount Vernon.
St. Jean says that she the required number of signatures is around 387, but she is aiming for 485, in case some are ineligible or would otherwise be disqualified. According to St. Jean, the petitions must be turned in by October 15. She seems optimistic that she will meet her goal; "I'm 2/3 of the way there, with a month to go".
Anyone who wishes to sign the petition and lives within the city limits of Mount Vernon can contact St. Jean through her Facebook page and she will give them her home address and make arrangements to get their signature. Her Facebook page is located at:
505.07 Animal Cruelty/Protection
(A) Cruelty to Animals
(a) No person shall:
(1) Torture an animal, deprive one of necessary sustenance, unnecessarily or cruelly beat, needlessly mutilate or kill, or impound or confine an animal without supplying it during confinement with a sufficient quantity of food and water.
(2) Impound or confine an animal without affording it, during such confinement, access to shelter from heat, cold, wind, rain, snow or excessive direct sunlight if it can reasonably be expected that the animal would otherwise become sick or in some other way suffer. For the purpose of this section, "shelter" means a man-made enclosure, windbreak, sunshade, or natural earth's contour, tree development or vegetation and must provide for the safety and health of the animal in accordance with good animal husbandry standards for each specific animal.
(3) Carry or convey an animal in a cruel or inhumane manner.
(4) Keep animals without wholesome exercise and change of air.
Whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree. In addition, the court may order the offender to forfeit the animal and may provide for its disposition including, but not limited to, the sale of the animal, or the placing of such animal with a 501(c)(3) Rescue Organization. If an animal is forfeited and sold under this division, the proceeds from the sale first shall be applied to pay the expenses incurred with regard to the care of the animal from the time it was taken from the custody of the former owner. The balance of the proceeds from the sale, or transfer, if any, shall be paid to the former owner of the animal.
(B) Neglect of Animals
(a) No owner or keeper of a dog, cat, or other domestic animal shall cause any condition that may lead to permanent injury, death, or harm to such animal, including confining an animal in a motor vehicle under any conditions that may endanger the well being of the domestic animal.
(b) No person shall keep any animal in a place that is unsanitary, including any place where there is an accumulation of feces or other waste, or foul odor, or insect or rodent infestation.
(c) No person who owns or keeps an animal shall fail to provide the animal all of the following needs:
(1) Clean, potable drinking water at all times, and suitable food, of sufficient quality and quantity as to ensure normal growth and the maintenance of normal body weight;
(2) Food and water receptacles that are kept clean , and located so as to avoid contamination by feces or other wastes;
(3) Regular exercise sufficient to maintain the animal's good health;
(4) Necessary veterinary care;
(5) Shelter from the elements, including heat, cold, wind, rain, snow or excessive direct sunlight. If the animal is housed outside, a structure for shelter and protection must be provided that is suitable for the species, age, condition, size, and type of that animal. The structure must be completely enclosed and insulated, having a single entrance/exit secured with a flap or door or similar device. The structure shall be moisture-resistant, wind-resistant, and of suitable size and type to allow the animal to stand, turn about freely, lie in a normal position, and regulate proper body temperature. The structure shall be made of a durable material with a solid, moisture-proof floor and a floor raised at least two (2) inches from the ground. Suitable drainage shall be provided so that water cannot be reasonably expected to gather and stand within ten (10) feet of the structure, and so the animal has access to a dry area at all times. Proper bedding of straw or similar material, that remains dry, must be utilized inside the structure. All structures required by this section shall be subject to all building and zoning regulations.
(d) No person who shelters an animal from the elements by means of an animal shelter, a cage, or a pen shall fail to conform it to the following requirements:
(1) The shelter, cage or pen shall be appropriate to the animal's size, weight, and other characteristics, with sufficient space to allow the animal to turn about freely and lie in a normal position;
(2) The shelter, cage or pen shall provide sufficient shade to allow the animal to escape the direct rays of the sun at all times;
(3) The shelter, cage or pen shall be regularly cleaned .
Whoever violates this section is guilty of neglect of animals, a misdemeanor of the first degree.
C. Tethering Animals
(1) No person shall tether or cause to be tethered any dog if a heat or cold advisory has been issued by a local or state authority or the National Weather Service; if a severe weather warning has been issued by a local or state authority or the National Weather Service; nor be tethered except under all the following conditions:
-The tether is appropriate for the age and size of the dog; and attached to the dog by a properly fitted collar or harness, and attached to a swivel configured to prevent the dog or tether from becoming entangled with other objects or animals or from extending over an object or edge that could result in the strangulation or injury of the dog.
-The dog is six months of age or older.
-If female, the dog is sterilized or not in estrus.
-The tether does not exceed ten percent of the dog's body weight.
-The tether allows the dog to easily stand, sit, lie, turn around, and make all other normal body movements in a comfortable, normal position for the dog.
-The tether allows the dog to interact safely with other animals, if at all.
-Only one dog is attached to a single tether.
-The dog is not tethered in a manner to permit the dog to cross and enter upon another's property, except that the same is not unlawful if the affected property owner or person having lawful possession thereof provides consent.
Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor on the first offense, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree on the second offense, and a misdemeanor of the first degree on the third or any subsequent offense. Notwithstanding the foregoing penalties, if an animal becomes sick or injured as a result of a violation of this section, then whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.
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