“No person shall knowingly torture, torment, needlessly mutilate or maim, cruelly beat, poison, needlessly kill, or commit an act of cruelty against a companion animal.”
NOBODY with an ounce of hu- manity in their souls would disagree with that noble premise of Ohio House Bill 90, commonly known as Nitro’s Law.
Nonetheless Nitro’s Law has suffered an inexplicably long, tortuous, anguishing path through the state Legislature over the past five years and still has not won complete passage. On repeated occasions, we have expressed our outrage over the stonewalling, politicking and other chicanery that have thwarted enactment of this much needed animal- protection statute.
SIGNS OF HOPE EMERGE
But just last week, optimism toward passage of Nitro’s Law gained new momentum, and hopes run high that it could reach the finish line by early summer. The Ohio House of Representatives for the third time – and this time by a unanimous 98-0 vote – approved the bill sponsored by State Reps. Ron Gerberry and Bob Hagan of the Mahoning Valley. Most importantly, it would permit animal abuse cases to be prosecuted as felonies.
It now heads to the state Senate, where it merits speedy vetting and a fast track to passage by June 30.
Nitro’s Law, as many will recall, originated from a case of horrid abuse in Youngstown in October 2008, when Mahoning County Animal Charity humane agents found seven dead and eight malnourished dogs in the backyard kennel of High Caliber K-9 on Coitsville-Hubbard Road The bill is named for one of the dogs who died, Nitro, a Rottweiler who was a beloved family companion.
Nitro entered K-9 healthy and weighing 105 pounds. He died there weighing 45 pounds, curled up in a fetal position with his bones protruding from his body.
His owners joined with others in 2009 to form Nitrofoundation.com to work toward legislation that would make such a crime a felony. With only a misdemeanor conviction, the man charged in the animals’ deaths, Steve Croley, received an unconscionably lenient sentence of 30 days in jail and probation.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
Our optimism this time around is predicated on several developments. First, GOP support has grown. It was introduced and passed in the House early this term with Republican state Rep. Cheryl Grossman signed on as a primary sponsor. The Senate now has 19 months left in the 130th session of the General Assembly to act.
Also, arguments for its passage continue to snowball. As Grossman and Hagan pointed out during floor debate last week, studies increasingly show strong connections between animal abuse and abuse against women and children.
Yet in spite of these and other strong odds for passage this year, Nitro’s supporters cannot let up. Despite its sound logic and widespread support, the bill has a long history of being railroaded. That’s why advocates of animal justice should blanket state senators, particularly Senate President Keith Faber, with letters, emails and petitions to carry the bill quickly to a full Senate floor vote by summer recess.
Once it is passed — and we’re reasonably confident it will pass this session — Ohio at long last will remove its stain as one of only a handful of states that lack these humane and reasonable protections. Or as Hagan stated on the House floor immediately before its passage last week, “ This will send a clear message that Ohio will no longer tolerate animal abuse.”