FINDLAY — A Findlay man’s arraignment on a misdemeanor charge for breaking a kitten’s neck at a local shelter prompted animal advocates to call for stricter animal-cruelty penalties.
About a dozen people carried signs Wednesday outside Findlay Municipal Courthouse calling for Ohio legislators to make a first-offense, animal-cruelty conviction a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
A proposed law that would have done just that, Nitro’s Law or House Bill 108, expired on Dec. 31 but is expected to be reintroduced this year.
Timothy Mompher, a volunteer at Teddy’s Rescue, does not deny snapping the kitten’s neck on Oct. 28.
His defense is that he was told to do so by Missy VanWormer, a former manager of the shelter at 12409 County Road 99, in Findlay.
Ms. VanWormer could not be reached for comment. She also declined to give a statement regarding the incident to Hancock County Dog Warden and Humane Officer Dana Berger. Mr. Berger’s report states that Ms. VanWormer denies any involvement.
The kitten was sick and Mr. Mompher said in an interview with The Blade that he was told to “put it out of its misery.”
“Missy [VanWormer] said she didn’t want us to take it to the vet because it was after hours on a Sunday and it would cost too much,” Mr. Mompher said.
He was charged with using a prohibitive method of destroying domestic animals, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
A conviction carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.
Mr. Berger said what made Mr. Mompher’s actions especially egregious was that the kitten did not die on Mr. Mompher’s first attempt; he had to snap its neck a second time.
“That animal had to suffer,” Mr. Berger said.
According to Mr. Berger’s report, witnesses to the incident included Mr. Mompher’s wife, Susan, the current kennel manager and marketing coordinator for Teddy’s Rescue; Chelsie Hackworth, an animal health-care supervisor at the rescue; and Ms. Hackworth’s husband, Ryan. The Hackworths each filed witness statements.
John Froton, business director at the rescue, said Mr. Mompher exercised “very poor judgment” but “I would hate for his poor judgment to cause support to end for Teddy’s Rescue.”
Mr. Froton said the rescue is very low-kill and in all other cases, animals have been taken to the veterinarian to be euthanized by lethal injection.
Findlay Municipal Court Judge Robert Fry said that since the defendant is “no stranger to this court” he was setting a $1,000 cash unsecured appearance bond.
One condition of his bond was that all animals must be removed from his residence pending the outcome of the case.
“The allegations in this case involve an animal so I want to ensure the safety of the animals currently in your care,” Judge Fry said.
According to Mr. Mompher’s Facebook page, he has five dogs.
He asked for the appointment of a public defender and the case was continued to March 6.
The protesters held signs with messages calling for stronger penalties for animal cruelty.
Ohio is one of the few states that doesn’t have a first-offense felony provision for animal cruelty.
Stefanie Mabrey of Findlay held two signs. One read: “Ohio, protect our pets. Cruelty = crime.” and the other “I [heart] dogs and I vote. Support humane laws.”
She was accompanied by her brother, Ben Jachimiak, of Toledo, whose sign read “Respect all life.”
“We need stronger laws in Ohio,” Ms. Mabrey said. “I don’t think the people of Findlay know what is going on with this case. He should get at least some jail time."
Several of the protesters were the original founders of the rescue.
They said they were “sickened” and in “disbelief” that the kitten was killed in the manner it was.
“It doesn’t matter if he was told to do this,” said Deb Neville of Findlay. “It makes no difference. If someone told you to go rob a bank, would you?”
Contact Tanya Irwin at: firstname.lastname@example.org,or 419-724-6066.