By Marc Kovac
A Mahoning Valley lawmaker has reintroduced legislation for stiffer criminal penalties against kennel owners who abuse animals.
This is the third General Assembly that state Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, has offered “Nitro’s Bill,” named in memory of a dog that starved to death at a Youngstown-area business.
Gerberry is joined by Rep. Cheryl Grossman, a Republican from the Columbus area and majority whip of the chamber, in sponsoring the bill, with bipartisan support among 18 co-sponsors.
“I’m hopeful that we can expedite the process and get it to the Senate as quickly as possible,” Gerberry said.
Nitro was a Rottweiler 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 and subsequently filed for bankruptcy, avoiding additional civil penalties.
The legislation reintroduced Thursday in the Ohio House 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 limits on their ability to operate kennels.
The bill is identical to one that moved through the Ohio House last session and that was OK’d by a committee in the Senate before being blocked from a floor vote.
Then-Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican from New Richmond, said in December that he had concerns with the proposed law changes and the potential that kennel owners could face higher penalties for abusing animals than those convicted of abusing children.
But Gerberry said he is optimistic the law will pass this time: “If it goes to the floor, the bill will pass because people don’t believe that kennel owners should have the right to mistreat the animals that they’re caring for.”