By Marc Kovac
For the third time in three general assemblies, a state lawmaker offered introductory testimony before a legislative panel on legislation that would allow increased penalties against kennel owners who abuse or kill animals in their care.
The new iteration of Nitro’s Law, named after a canine that was starved to death at a Youngstown kennel, is essentially the same as the one Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, offered two years ago that passed the Ohio House and an Ohio Senate committee before stalling just shy of a final vote.
“That’s past history,” Gerberry told the House’s agriculture committee Tuesday. “I really believe — strongly believe — in what this bill does, and that’s why I reintroduced if for the third time.”
House Bill 90 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 lower-level felony charges, and judges could place limitations on their future ability to operate kennels.
“This bill gives prosecutors the option,” Gerberry said. “This is not mandatory. That’s a very, very key point here for those that have concerns about extending felony charges.”
Gerberry named the bill in memory of Nitro, a Rott-weiler that 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. The owner of the business faced a few misdemeanor convictions as a result of the incident and subsequently filed for bankruptcy, avoiding additional civil penalties.
“Local residents were very shocked and angry that a kennel owner could cause the death of these animals with no serious repercussions,” Gerberry said. “This legislation seeks to bring the state of Ohio in line with many, many other states that define animal cruelty as a felony offense.”
The legislation has received bipartisan support over the past two sessions of the state Legislature but has fallen short of passage each time.