By Marc Kovac
Kennel owners who abuse dogs in their care may face increased criminal penalties under law changes enacted as part of the $62 billion biennial budget Gov. John Kasich signed Sunday.
The language isn’t the same as Nitro’s Law, the legislation offered in three-consecutive general assemblies by state Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, in response to an incident at a Youngstown kennel. But he and others pushing for stiffer charges say the results should be the same.
Nitro 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 business owner faced a few misdemeanor convictions and subsequently filed for bankruptcy, avoiding additional civil penalties.
Gerberry and others have been pushing to increase criminal penalties for such kennel abuse, but legislation introduced during three separate sessions stalled each time in the Ohio Senate.
But last month, Republicans in that chamber agreed to amend the biennial budget to address the issue, allowing felony charges in instances where kennel owners and operators knowingly abuse or neglect animals in their care.
The budget language specifically allows increased charges for torturing, tormenting, needlessly mutilating, beating, poisoning, starving or dehydrating companion animals.
The provisions do not cover horses, cows, hogs and captive white-tailed deer or other livestock.
The changes take effect in October. Gerberry supported the final version of the language, saying it would accomplish the goal of Nitro’s Law.