The Ohio House of Representatives yesterday evening approved “Nitro’s Law,” House Bill 108, sponsored by State Reps. Ronald V. Gerberry (D-Austintown) and Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown), to crack down on animal abuse. The bill passed the House in 2010 as HB 70, although the Senate failed to take action on the legislation.
“For too long, kennel owners have been getting by with a slap on the wrist when they inflict pain and harsh living conditions on the pets left in their care. This bill makes animal abuse by a kennel owner a fifth degree felony,” said Rep. Gerberry in a speech to colleagues on the House floor during debate on the bill. “I believe this legislation will encourage kennels to do what is morally right when it comes to protecting companion animals left in good faith with those who are supposed to take care of them.”
The measure gives local prosecutors the authority to charge the owner, custodian or caretaker of a registered kennel with either a misdemeanor or a fifth degree felony if animals are abused in their care.
“Often times, animal abuse is indicative of how the abusers treat fellow human beings. House Bill 108 will give local prosecutors a much needed option to ensure the seriousness of these abuses is reflected in the charges and subsequent punishment for violations,” said Rep. Hagan. “People all over the nation have been calling to voice their support; citizens understand we need this bill. Now we just have to convince the Senate and Governor that this law is desperately needed,” said Rep. Hagan.
The legislation stems from an incident that occurred in Youngstown in October 2008. At that time, a local kennel owner was arrested because he clearly was not taking care of animals that he was boarding and training. Humane agents were called to the premises where they found horrific living conditions. Fifteen dogs were discovered dead or dying. The remaining animals were suffering from starvation and dehydration.
The owner was taken into custody and the nineteen counts of cruelty to animals he was originally charged with were reduced to four due to legal missteps. At the time of sentencing for this individual, it was determined that Ohio only provides misdemeanor penalties for animal cruelty regardless of the brutality.
“Nitro’s Law” now goes to the Ohio Senate for consideration.