Ohio Valley Dog Owners, Inc.
Protecting dogs, dog owners and our neighbors
Ohio has a new animal cruelty law that represents a substantial victory for dog owners, breeders, and trainers, but covers only pets and penalizes some categories of animal cruelty with the same sentences meted out to domestic violence offenders.
The bill, a result of a six-year battle to make changes in Ohio's animal cruelty statute, was signed by Governor Taft early in January. It was introduced by Senator David Goodman, a former representative who sat on the House Criminal Justice Committee during hearings on previous bills introduced by Representative Patrick Tiberi in 1997-98 and 1999-2000.
Goodman listened to the testimony of OVDO during those House committee hearings. His bill included many of the provisions we asked for, provisions that were left out of Tiberi's bills and opposed by the Humane Society of the US. Goodman's bill:
SB 221 placed the pretrial payments in escrow until disposition of the case, earmarked fine money for humane agent training, and required deposit of the fine money in the county treasury, removing the incentive for the shelter to pad expenses, confiscate animals, or bring charges for the money.
Hunters had opposed the Tiberi bills, so Goodman exempted them from his bill. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Representative Timothy Grendell.
Because many of our breeding and training practices are the same as those used by hunters, we asked for the same exemptions for owners and trainers of performance and working dogs. However, the dog fancy is not as powerful as the hunting lobby in Ohio and HSUS is very strong in the state, so we got a watered-down exemption for the use of training equipment. Thus dog owners cannot be charged with cruelty for proper use of prong collars, electronic training collars, radio-controlled fence collars, or other common training devices.
Goodman's original bill prohibited keeping dogs in primary enclosures that did not allow them to stand up to their full height, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Somewhere along the way, an additional provision that exempted crates used in transport was added. Therefore, the bill could have banned the keeping of dogs in crates at shows if a humane agent considered the show crate to be suitable for actual transport but in violation of the law if it served as primary housing for the duration of the show.
Each incarnation of the bill has included increased penalties for animal cruelty with felony penalties for second and subsequent offenses. Each has also included the authority for courts to order counseling for animal owners if appropriate.
Goodman's bill went much further - it added provisions that require humane agencies and social service agencies to work together if investigations of animal abuse or neglect uncovered evidence of human abuse or neglect or if investigations of domestic violence uncovered evidence of animal abuse or neglect.
With the assistance of representatives Tom Brinkman and Bill Seitz of Cincinnati and John Willamowski of Lima, we got some amendments to the final bill that require input in animal husbandry training by the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and exempted the training tools and practices as noted above. The housing standards were replaced with a requirement that owners provide sufficient quantities of good, wholesome food and water and a prohibition on confinement of animals without protection from the elements If it is reasonable to expect that the animal will get sick or otherwise suffer as a result.
One rather curious last-minute amendment allows owners to medicate their own animals at home if the medication has been prescribed by a veterinarian. This may have been added because home use of homeopathic or herbal remedies is becoming more popular and dog owners are ordering some medications without a prescription over the Internet. It's impact on the use of over-the-counter remedies is unknown.
All penalties were increased so that those convicted of cruelty face stiffer sentences. Second conviction of torture or maiming carries a felony punishment of 6-12 months in jail and up to a $2500 fine.
Unfortunately, the bill covers only so-called 'companion animals,' defined as all dogs and cats and other pets kept in the household. Animals kept as pets in detached garages and other outbuildings and animals other than dogs and cats in commercial facilities and retail outlets are not covered. Thus the bill has a double standard in which some animals are considered more worthy of protection than others.
Unfortunately, lawmakers ask HSUS when they have questions about animal laws, and HSUS is there with its own agenda to control all facets of animal law enforcement. Early in the process, HSUS actually opposed mandatory training for humane agents and constitutional protection for animal owners who had been charged with cruelty but not convicted.
However, although we started with a bill written by HSUS that would have been a disaster for dog breeders, trainers, and exhibitors, we were successful in getting changes because we showed up at every hearing (about two dozen over the past six years), met with individual lawmakers, made phone calls, and sent letters and petitions explaining our opposition to some provisions and our support of others.
We could have achieved more if we could prove to lawmakers that the dog fancy in Ohio is a force to be reckoned with at the ballot box and in state tourism dollars and that the dog fancy is a broad and deep resource when animal control/cruelty laws are under consideration.
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