All but five states have tougher animal abuse laws than Ohio

Let’s hope that the third time is the charm.

In the last three Ohio General Assemblies, legislation has been introduced to toughen the state’s laws on animal abuse.

In the last session a bill actually passed in the House, but died in the Senate.

That bill, like another that has been introduced in the House this year, was inspired by a horrendous case of abuse in Youngstown in October 2008. Kennel operator Steven Croley abandoned 19 dogs in his care. Seven of them died of starvation; the others were severely malnourished.

Croley got off with an incredibly light sentence for all the pain he caused to the animals entrusted to him and to their owners, in part because of the inadequacy of the law and in part because of mistakes that were made. The law director said that enforcement agents should have waited for a search warrant before entering the premises of Croley’s High Caliber K-9 on Coitsville-Hubbard Road. Humane officers countered that the law department was too quick to concede on the search-warrant issue. Other critics suggested that Croley should have faced additional fraud or theft charges for accepting payment from the dogs’ owners for training and boarding, and then not providing even a minimum of care.

Be that as it may, Croley was sentence two years ago to four months in jail on four counts of animal cruelty. With credit for 13 days served before he posted bond, he was out in less time than some petty thieves.

Legislative remedy

The bill that would help protect another dog or dog owner from the next Steven Croley is called Nitro’s Bill, taking its name from a Rott–weiler that starved to death. His owner, Tom Siesto, has not forgotten his pet and has advocated a tougher law in Columbus and on a website dedicated to Nitro.

The legislation would make it illegal for kennel owners to abuse or neglect pets, and those that did could face felony charges, rather than misdemeanors. Judges could also place prohibitions or limitations on their future ability to operate kennels.

Democratic Reps. Ron Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, and Bob Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, have once again introduced the bill and, we trust, will be able to get it through the House again, even though control in this session has shifted to Republicans.

In all but five states, Croley would have faced felony charges.

That he couldn’t or didn’t here is something of a crime in itself. If the Ohio Senate doesn’t take this new opportunity to approve tougher legislation dealing with the most callous of animal abusers, that, too, would be a crime.

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