Molly, animal ambassador, dies
One of—if not the—most loved canines in the history of this area died on Wednesday. Molly, a white mixed-breed canine who survived life-threatening wounds, later became the ambassador for Marion County’s animal abuse registry, known as Molly’s Law.
Molly died at age 15 at her forever home, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Ocala, with her longtime human companion Lilly Baron at her side, along with her canine companions Princess Lily and Sir Anthony. Molly had been being treated for cancer in recent months.
“The last two weeks were hard on her,” Baron said, with tears falling and her voice breaking in a phone conversation. “She was great; she died really peacefully at home. She’s in a better place, but I’m in a million pieces.”
Molly was stabbed three times in the head and had her skull fractured with a baseball bat in early 2014. Her accused attacker, Steven Scott Fleming, served time in state prison on three counts of felony cruelty to animals.
The local registry, commonly known as Molly’s Law, requires that any offender convicted of an animal abuse crime be placed on the registry. The online database allows citizens, pet sellers and rescue organizations to verify that they are not placing an animal with an animal abuser, according to the Marion County website.
On April 24, 2022, the “Molly’s Law Documentary” premiered at the Marion Theatre—and, of course, Molly was the star of the show, posing for photo ops before and after the event.
A massive photo of the happy snow-white canine projected across the big screen drew murmurs of adoration. Images of a bloodied and beaten Molly had people gasping in horror. The purpose of the documentary is to share Molly’s story and serve as a model for other communities to create similar programs.
A handful of other counties in Florida have adopted similar legislation, but Baron, and many others, want to see a statewide registry and, in turn, a national database.
Baron said at the time that the documentary and appeal for a broader registry came about because, “We had somebody who abuses animals go over the county line and it wasn’t effective in the next county. And that continuously happens. So, I put my mind to it that we we’re going to do a statewide animal abuser registry so they couldn’t get away with this.”
The 24-minute film by Mark and Jackie Barrett details the abuse Molly suffered and how she was treated by Marion County Animal Services and later was adopted into the care of Baron.
Also featured in the documentary is Peggy Hoyt, an attorney and animal activist whose father, John A. Hoyt, was formerly CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. In the film, she talks about evidence supporting that many forms of violence start with the abuse of animals and makes an appeal for a national registry.
When news of Molly’s passing began to spread on social media, many of the comments were about her “legacy.”
“It so true,” Baron said. “She has a legacy and I am going to continue to work for a statewide registry. I won’t stop!”
And, she added, “I’ve been talking with senators and state representatives from both parties. It will come together. That’s Molly, bringing people together. It’s just who she is.”
A marble statue of Molly is being created by South Florida artist Nilda Comas, who recently made history with her sculpture of Black educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune for the National Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol.To view the “Molly’s Law Documentary,” go to spcaofocala.org
The county’s animal abuser registry is accessible at marioncountyfl.org/aar
To report animal abuse, within unincorporated areas of Marion County or the city of Ocala, call Marion County Animal Control at (352) 671-8727. For emergencies after-hours or on weekends, contact the Marion County Sheriff’s Office at (352) 732-9111. Within the city of Belleview, contact the Belleview Police Department at (352) 245-7044. Within the city of Dunnellon, contact the Dunnellon Police Department at (352) 465-8510.