Animal Abuse in Scioto County is one hot button issue that may be finally getting the attention it deserves. While animal rights activists have been rallying for years within the county to see animal abusers brought to justice, very few cases have resulted in long-term consequences. As of June 15, The Scioto County Grand Jury returned with 31 indictments, three of which listed charges of prohibitions concerning companion animals. According to Scioto County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Kuhn, the charges filed against the three individuals, Trista Dawn Lewis, Christian Latham Childers, and Shane Whitt, are the first felony charges handed down in Scioto County for prohibitions concerning companion animals since Goddard’s Law went into effect in Ohio in September of 2016. Goddard’s Law, named for long-time Cleveland weatherman and animal activist Dick Goddard, enhanced the penalties for acts of animal abuse. According to the Ohio Revised Code section 959.131 “companion animal” means any animal that is kept inside a residential dwelling and any dog or cat regardless of where it is kept. The term “companion animal” does not, however, include livestock or any wild animal. Additionally, no person shall 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 such confinement with a sufficient quantity of good wholesome food and water, Impound or confine an animal without affording it, during such confinement, access to shelter from wind, rain, snow, or excessive direct sunlight if it can reasonably be expected that the animals would otherwise become sick or in some other way suffer. When asked why these specific cases warranted felony indictments, Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn stated that it was based on the merits of the charges and the investigation process. “If we want to prosecute these cases as felonies, we have to treat them as such from the very beginning,” said Kuhn. Kuhn elaborated that that called for thorough investigations, and accurate documentation of abuse, among other factors.
While a single charge of prohibitions concerning companion animals was listed for Shane Whitt, who, according to the Scioto Area Humane Society was the owner of “Ruby” a pitbull who was seized and later passed due to poor health, Trista Dawn Lewis and Christian Latham Childers each received 28 charges.
According to a Sheriff’s Report from April 14, 2018 one deputy was dispatched to 2056 Sheila Boulevard in Portsmouth just before 4 p.m. in response to an animal complaint. The address, linked to Trista Lewis (Spouse of Christian Childers) through county records is also the site where 15 dogs were removed on the same date by two non-profit rescue groups, all of which were in emaciated conditions, and confined to small cages, according to witnesses. According to Lost and Found Pets of Scioto Vice President Michelle Pace, one dog of the 15 rescued died and vet bills for the remaining animals was approximately $3,000 after donations from the community. With warrants for arrest issued to the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office for all three parties on indictments, those advocating for Ruby and the rescue dogs dubbed “the furry fifteen” can only hope that this is a turning point for Scioto County, and that more justice is on the way for the voiceless and abused.