By Marc Kovac
A state legislative committee has signed off on increased criminal penalties against kennel operators who abuse animals in their care, setting the stage for a final vote by the Ohio House.
House Bill 108 was introduced by Democratic Reps. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown and Bob Hagan of Youngstown after more than a dozen dogs were found dead or dying from starvation at a business in Mahoning County.
The 2008 incident at the High Caliber K-9 on Coitsville-Hubbard Road resulted in four misdemeanor convictions against the kennel owner, who subsequently filed for bankruptcy, avoiding additional civil penalties.
The bill, titled “Nitro’s Law” in memory of one of the dogs that died, would make it illegal for kennel owners, managers or employees to abuse or neglect pets in their care.
Those found guilty of doing so could face felony charges, and judges could place limitations on their future ability to operate kennels.
Comparable legislation passed the Ohio House last session but stalled in the state Senate late last year. The two lawmakers reintroduced the bill this session
The House’s Criminal Justice Committee has played host to several hearings on the legislation, including hearing testimony from the owner of Nitro.
The committee gave its OK to the legislation Wednesday, and the bill now awaits a vote of the full chamber. The Ohio Senate would take up the legislation after the House acts on it.
“I am in total agreement with the many thousands of animal lovers across this state that this bill is needed and can set the tone of intolerance on violent crimes commented against our four-legged friends,” Gerberry said in a released statement.
Hagan added, “Crimes against defenseless animals are as despicable as crimes committed against defenseless children, seniors and other fellow humans. At the end of the day, they are all victims. Ohio can do better than that. We can rewrite the laws to make a difference, and that is what Ron Gerberry and I are trying to do.”