Budget amendment would increase penalties against kennel owners who abuse animals
By MARC KOVAC
COLUMBUS — Republicans in the Ohio Senate have inserted language into the state budget that would increase penalties against kennel owners who abuse animals in their care.
The amendment, however, does not include all of the language from Nitro’s Law, legislation introduced multiple times in recent years in response to incident at a Youngstown kennel that resulted in the death of more than a dozen dogs, including the bills’ namesake Rottweiler.
The new budget amendment would allow felony criminal charges against kennel owners or employees who “knowingly” torture, torment, needlessly mutilate or maim, cruelly beat, poison, needlessly kill or commit an act of cruelty against the companion animal.
But it allows only misdemeanor charges against those who “negligently” do the same or deprive animals of food and water.
State Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, , who has introduced Nitro’s Law in each of the past three sessions, said that’s where the Senate language differs from his legislation. As written, it would not lead to increased criminal charges against kennel owners, like the one in Youngstown, who killed the dogs in his care.
“You’re saying you can starve a dog and get a misdemeanor,” Gerberry said, adding, “It’s not Nitro’s Law. It drastically altered the intent of what we did.”
His legislation would allow felony charges for all instances of abuse and neglect.
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.
“They starved those animals, they dehydrated them,” Gerberry said. “That’s how they killed them. They tortured them by not feeding them.”
The owner of the business faced a few misdemeanor convictions and subsequently filed for bankruptcy, avoiding additional civil penalties.
The legislation has received bipartisan support over the past two sessions of the legislature but has fallen short of passage each time. It passed the Ohio House last month.
“Am I disappointed in the way it’s in the budget? Yes,” Gerberry said of the Senate amendment. “We’re going to see if we can work it out. ... We’re going to try to do the best we can to correct it.”