By Marc Kovac
The Ohio House has again passed legislation aimed at cracking down on kennels that abuse pets in their care.
House Bill 90, titled Nitro’s Law in memory of a dog that died at a Youngs-town-area kennel, passed on a unanimous, bipartisan vote of 98-0 and heads back to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
It has stalled in that chamber in two previous sessions.
“House Bill 90 has had a long, twisting journey over three terms,” said state Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, primary sponsor of the legislation. “I’m hopeful that maybe the third time will be a charm.”
State Rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, added, “Animal abuse will no longer be tolerated in the state of Ohio.”
HB 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.
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.
“When brought to the kennel by his owners, Nitro was a healthy, 105-pound Rottweiler,” Gerberry said. “When he was found dead, Nitro was 45 pounds.”
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.
“This bill has been vetted very well,” Gerberry said.
Critics have voiced concerns that kennel owners could face higher penalties for abusing animals than those convicted of abusing children.
But state Rep. Cheryl Grossman, of Grove City, R-23rd, who co-sponsored Nitro’s Law this session, noted studies that draw connections between people who abuse animals and people who abuse other people.
She said 34 others states have comparable animal-cruelty felonies already in place.