Time is rapidly running out for the Ohio General Assembly to remove the shameful and embarrassing stain on the Buckeye State in its lenient and insensitive penalties for those who kill and severely abuse animals.
Specifically, the state Legislature must act quickly before adjournment next month to pass Nitro’s Law, a bill sponsored by Mahoning Valley state Reps. Ronald Gerberry and Robert Hagan. The bill would raise the most egregious first-time animal-abuse crimes to felonies.
Nitro’s Law, first introduced in the state’s lawmaking body in 2009, died a slow death in December 2010 when the Legislature failed to carry it to the finish line before the final adjournment of its two-year session. If such insensitive and callous inaction is repeated next month, the bill will die again.
That’s why animal lovers in all corners of Ohio must act now by bombarding state Senate President Thomas Niehaus with demands to move Nitro’s law, formally known as House Bill 108, to the full floor of the Senate for a final vote before adjournment. The bill won House approval nine months ago and won Senate committee approval in May.
A full Senate vote where passage is expected, some minor technical tinkering by the House and a signature from Gov. John Kasich are all that is needed to bring Ohio into the 21st century of compassionate protection for the state’s dogs, cats and other defenseless animals.
Abuse in Youngstown
Nitro’s Law originated from a case of horrid abuse in Youngstown four years ago. In October 2008, Mahoning County Animal Charity humane agents found seven dead and eight malnourished dogs in the backyard kennel area of High Caliber K-9 on Coitsville-Hubbard Road. HB 108 is named for one of the dogs who died, Nitro, a Rottweiler who was a beloved family companion. His owners joined with others in 2009 to form Nitrofoundation.com to work towards legislation that would make such a crime a felony. The man charged in the animals’ deaths, Steve Croley, received misdemeanor punishment of a paltry 30 days in jail and probation.
Passage of Nitro’s Law/HB 108 would bring Ohio in line with 43 other states that have a “first-offense” felony provision on their books for animal abuse and would create both meatier penalties and stronger deterrence value.
A recent case from Norwalk, Ohio, clearly reinforces the need for Nitro’s Law. Last week, Michael J. Hoyt, 44, was sentenced to 180 days in a work-release jail program for shooting and killing his wife’s two white Yorkie puppies. Nitro’s Law would have made that punishment much more severe and much more just.
In the name of justice, animal lovers throughout the Mahoning Valley and the state should channel their outrage toward the leader of the Senate to demand a vote on Nitro’s Law in the coming weeks. Send letters to State Sen. Thomas E. Niehaus, R-New Richmond, 1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor, Columbus, OH 43215. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 614-466-8082.
Despite the partisan rancor that has stonewalled action on a wealth of vital state bills in 2011 and 2012, animal compassion transcends politics. Long-stalled passage of HB 108 would send a clear message to would-be abusers that Ohio will no longer tolerate inhumane treatment of its most helpless living creatures. It also would at long last remove one abominable blemish of animal injustice from the state’s legal codes.