By Marc Kovac
Legislation that would increase criminal penalties against kennel operators who abuse pets in their care is not expected to move out of the Ohio Senate this session.
The bill’s sponsor, who offered the law changes after an incident at a Mahoning County kennel, isn’t confident Nitro’s Law will be passed in the new year, either.
House Bill 108 is named in memory of a dog that was starved to death at a Youngstown-area business.
The Rottweiler was among more than a dozen dogs that were found dead or dying from extreme neglect in 2008 at the High Caliber K-9 kennel on Coitsville-Hubbard Road.
The owner of the business faced a few misdemeanor convictions as a result and subsequently filed for bankruptcy, avoiding additional civil penalties.
HB 108, sponsored by Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th; and Rep. Robert Hagan, of Youngstown, D-60th; 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.
HB 108 passed the Ohio House in February and moved through a Senate committee a few months later. But it’s languished “below the line” on the Senate calendar, among two dozen-plus bills that either don’t have the support for passage or that were amended into other legislation.
Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican from New Richmond, said Wednesday he does not intend to bring up the bill before the end of the lame duck session. The chamber’s last voting session of the year could be today.
“I have concerns with the bill,” Niehaus said. “I continue to look at it, but I don’t expect it to come up. ... We appear to treat abuse of animals and penalize people more for that than we do for the abuse of children. And I think that just doesn’t make any sense.”
Gerberry, who has pushed for passage of the bill for two sessions, said he will introduce it again next year.
“Although I think the chances of passage will be very difficult,” he said. “I was told that some senators think we’re doing too many animal bills. ... This is a real practical approach. This is a good bill. It’s been vetted very well.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a proponent of the bill, voiced its disappointment late Wednesady.
Vicki Deisner, state director for the group’s Midwest government relations, said: “Animal abuse is always a despicable offense, but when this offense occurs at the hands of one who is paid to protect the animals in their care, the offense is all the more egregious and should be punished accordingly.”