Nitro’s Law would have seemed to be a bill that would sail through the Ohio General Assembly in days rather than years. It was, after all, named for a dog, and just about everyone loves dogs — or at least they say they do.
The law was inspired by a horrendous set of circumstances that got wide publicity at the time. Nitro was one eight dogs starved to death while in the care of an unscrupulous kennel operator and dog trainer in Youngstown in 2008. Now, there’s no denying that some aspects of the criminal case against that kennel owner, Steve Crowley, were botched locally, which resulted in Crowley getting off with a ridiculously light sentence given the damage he did.
But while in a perfect legal environment, Crowley would have done more time, the fact remains that the only charges he could face were misdemeanors. Nitro’s Law would have made it possible for authorities to bring felony charges against kennel operators who abused the animals entrusted to them.
To most people that would not seem unreasonable. Crowley presented himself as a trustworthy and professional custodian of dogs to unsuspecting owners who not only put their animals in his care, but gave him money to assure its provision. To allow healthy dogs to starve to death over a period of weeks rises to a level of malfeasance and criminality that should offend any decent person, regardless of their affinity for pets.
And yet, Nitro’s law died in the Ohio Senate. It languished there for six months after the House passed it until two weeks ago, when Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican from New Richmond, announced there wasn’t time to give the bill a vote.
The most logical explanation is that kennel interests and their lobbyists were somehow more persuasive than the dog lovers who supported the bill.
Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, says he’ll reintroduce the bill in the new session. Good. Nitro and the rest of the dogs at Crowley’s kennel deserved better treatment than they got, and the bill named for him deserved more than it was given by the Legislature.