Valley lawmakers target abusive pet owners

By Marc Kovac


Two Democratic lawmakers say they will reintroduce legislation allowing increased criminal penalties against kennel owners who abuse or neglect pets.

State Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry, from Austintown, and Rep. Bob Hagan, from Youngstown, offered comparable legislation last session after an incident at a Youngstown kennel.

“If you are the owner of a kennel and you mistreat an animal, the county prosecutor or the city prosecutor should have the right to charge you with a felony,” Gerberry said. “[I’m] not saying they have to but saying they should have that option.”

The proposed legislation would have enabled prosecutors to seek felony charges against kennel owners who abuse animals in their care. About 45 other states already rank some animal- cruelty charges as felonies.

“The abuse of someone’s pet is deplorable and disgusting,” Gerberry said in a released statement.

Hagan added in the statement: “Every time you pick up the paper or turn on the news you hear about another case of animal abuse. This bill will give local prosecutors the necessary tools to punish those inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on pets.”

The two lawmakers offered the legislation in response to an October 2008 incident in which humane agents found 15 dogs dead or dying at the High Caliber K-9 on Coitsville-Hubbard Road near Youngstown.

The kennel operator initially faced 19 counts of cruelty to animals, but those charges were later reduced to four with misdemeanor penalties.

The bill is being called Nitro’s Law, after one of the dogs that died at the Kennel. Comparable legislation cleared the Ohio House last session on a split vote but died in the Ohio Senate.

“We’ll see if we can get any further this time,” Gerberry said.

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