By Marc Kovac
The Ohio House signed off Wednesday on legislation allowing increased criminal penalties against kennel owners who abuse pets in their care.
The final vote on House Bill 108, titled Nitro’s Law in memory of a dog that starved to death while in the care of a Youngstown-area kennel, was 78-9, and the legislation heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
It’s the second time in recent years that the bill has made it out of the House. There’s no guarantee that the Ohio Senate will act on it.
“It’s been a long way for Nitro,” said state Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th.
He added, “I know that people across this country and in particular, the owners of Nitro, who live in Manhattan, would be very pleased if we passed this.”
Nitro was a Rottweiler who was among more than a dozen dogs found dead or dying from extreme neglect in 2008 at the High Caliber K-9 kennel on Coitsville-Hubbard Road, owned and operated by Steve Croley.
Croley faced only four misdemeanor convictions as a result of the incident and subsequently filed for bankruptcy, avoiding additional civil penalties.
HB 108, sponsored by Gerberry and Rep. Bob 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.
“If you are a kennel owner or you work for a licensed kennel in the state of Ohio and you ... knowingly torture, kill, starve, maim, beat, poison [a companion animal], then the prosecutor of the city or the prosecutor of the county will have the opportunity to then prosecute at a fifth-degree felony,” Gerberry said.