Nonprofits Beware! This very official-looking letter purports to provide your new Ohio nonprofit organization a Certificate of Good Standing for the fee of $67.50. This letter is NOT from the Ohio Secretary of State and is extremely misleading. Similar letters are being sent to nonprofits across the country with state-matched names such as “MI Certificate Service” (Michigan) and “CA Certificate Service” (California).
The letter suggests that your organization may need this certificate as “official evidence” of your organization’s existence. In reality, when an Ohio nonprofit organization is formed, you receive an approval certificate with your charter number from the Ohio Secretary of State.
Please review solicitations like this carefully before sending funds and when in doubt, reach out directly to the governmental agency rather than using the contact information contained in the letter. OH Certificate Service’s website does not exist and its address is a UPS Shipping Store. The website uses a “.com” domain, rather than “.gov.” In a tiny font in the middle of the letter under “Business Information,” there is a line that reads “This is not a government agency.” Are they referring to the nonprofit organization or “OH Certificate Service”?
Certificates of Good Standing are rarely needed for Ohio nonprofits and are most often used when dealing with financial institutions. If your organization needs a Certificate of Good Standing, it can be obtained online from the Ohio Secretary of State website for $5.00 (https://www.sos.state.oh.us/businesses/business-reports/#gref) or contact an attorney for help (it won’t cost you $67.50!).
The PACT Act (Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act) was signed into federal law yesterday! This is a great law that builds on 2010’s Animal Crush Prohibition Act by making any activity defined as “animal crushing” potentially a federal crime, whether or not the act is committed as part of a crush video.
Unfortunately, there are lots of misleading and confusing headlines on this law, including that the PACT Act: “makes animal cruelty a federal felony” “Mak[es] Cruelty To Animals A Federal Crime” “Bans Cruelty” “Make[s] Animal Abuse a Federal Offense” is a “Sweeping Federal Ban on Animal Cruelty” covers “Most animal cruelty”
The PACT Act does make some animal cruelty a federal offense, but it isn’t that simple! Here are the basics:
✏️ What is “Animal Crushing”? ➡️ Animal crushing commonly refers to extreme fetish videos depicting animal abuse—where small animals are crushed, ripped apart, burned, or otherwise tortured to death. Usually, this is designed for the sexual gratification of the viewer. In 2010, a federal law was passed that banned the creation or depiction of such videos/acts, but NOT the actual underlying act of animal cruelty.
✏️ What does the PACT Act cover? ➡️ It outlaws purposeful crushing, burning, drowning, suffocation, impalement and other purposeful acts that cause “serious bodily injury” to animals other than fish. It also prohibits some acts of sexual abuse against animals other than fish, but this particular provision seems to have a qualifier that such acts are only prohibited if committed in the “special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States” (federal property). The rest of the PACT Act applies to acts “in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce,” in addition to federal property. This limitation on the jurisdiction of animal sexual abuse crimes seems to negatively affect the federal prosecution of, for example, bestiality videos that are distributed online. ➡️ It outlines exemptions for humane euthanasia; slaughter for food; recreational activities such as hunting, trapping, and fishing; medical and scientific research; normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry, or other animal management practice; unintentional acts; and acts that are necessary to protect the life or property of a person. ➡️ It does not apply to anything other than the specific acts of cruelty listed above. ➡️ It does not cover all acts of animal cruelty. ➡️ It does not cover acts of neglect, abandonment, extreme weather, filthy conditions, or tethering issues. ➡️ It does not cover “puppy mill” issues.
✏️ Does the PACT Act change state and local law? ➡️ No. An offender can only be prosecuted pursuant to the PACT Act if the criminal act occurs on federal property (ex: national parks, military bases) or “in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce.” Federal property (“special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States”) is defined in 8 subsections of 18 U.S.C. § 7: maritime jurisdiction, 18 U.S.C. §§ 7(1), 7(2); lands and buildings, 18 U.S.C. § 7(3); Guano Islands, 18 U.S.C. §7(4); aircraft, 18 U.S.C. § 7(5); spacecraft, 18 U.S.C. § 7(6); places outside the jurisdiction of any nation, 18 U.S.C. § 7(7); and foreign vessels en route to and from the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 7(8)). ➡️ The PACT Act was designed not to preempt or interfere with local/state animal cruelty laws or enforcement. The PACT Act is merely a federal overlay, exactly like the federal animal fighting law(s).
✏️ Who enforces the PACT Act? ➡️ Federal law enforcement in federal courts.
✏️ What are the possible punishments for violation of the PACT Act? ➡️ Violations could result in a fine and up to seven years’ imprisonment.
✏️ Does the PACT Act make all animal cruelty a felony? ➡️ No. As noted above, the PACT Act only applies in a narrow set of circumstances. State and local legislation to strengthen animal cruelty and neglect laws are still needed and very much necessary.
State of Ohio v. Christina Davis and Delores Davis, a case prosecuted for the Cleveland Animal Protective League.
Delores and Christina Davis, sisters, were charged with one second degree misdemeanor count related to the starvation death of their dog. The dog was found deceased and emaciated in their yard. The sisters stated they relied on neighbors to provide them with free dog food. The dog’s bowls contained only filth and leaves.
Each defendant pleaded no contest to the charge. They must each complete 500 hours of community service and 5 years of active probation, during which time they cannot own animals and are subject to the APL’s monitoring. 90 days in jail were imposed, and suspended. They will pay court costs.
ANIMAL LEGISLATION UPDATE:
HB 198, which abolishes Ohio Humane Societies’ ability to appoint prosecutors to prosecute crimes against animals, was introduced in the Ohio House on 5/11/15. This is the first legislative effort to REDUCE a Humane Society’s ability to protect animals.
Primary Sponsors: Reps. Steve Hambley (R-69) and Greta Johnson (D-35)
Summary: To repeal section 2931.18 of the Revised Code to abolish the humane society’s authority to employ an attorney to prosecute certain violations of law dealing with animal cruelty.
In February 2012, Edita Opluštilová, a resident of the Czech Republic, leased her Shiba Inu breed dog Mája to Tina King Duncan and Les Duncan. The Duncans operate as “Fallscreek Shibas” out of New Vienna, Ohio. The Duncans bred Mája twice and refused to return the dog and her second litter of puppies to Ms. Opluštilová. In December 2014, we accomplished the return of Mája and her puppies. The puppies are pictured below.
We also represent James Moglia of New York and Berry Bolink of the Netherlands, who recently filed suit against the Duncans in Highland County, Ohio. The Plaintiffs in this case purchased three Shiba Inu breed dogs from the Duncans, who hold themselves out to be reputable breeders with healthy, pedigreed Shiba Inu breed dogs of “champion” quality. Despite paying premium prices, the Plaintiffs allege that they never received AKC paperwork for their dogs as promised and also that one dog arrived infected with Giardia.
Similarly, we represented Gullborg Knudsen, a resident of Norway, who purchased a “show quality” Shiba Inu dog from the Duncans in April 2014. Fortunately, the dam and sire in Ms. Knudsen’s case were actually AKC registered, unlike those in some of our other cases. We were finally able to acquire the AKC registration papers for Ms. Knudsen’s dog.
Moglia and Bolink seek other individuals who are similarly situated. If you have purchased an un-registerable or sick dog, or paid for a dog never received from the Duncans, please contact Dana at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-239-4480.
State v. Michael Johnson, a case we prosecuted for the Ashland County Dog Shelter/Dog Warden.
Johnson was charged with animal cruelty related to the starvation of his two Golden Retriever dogs, Laney and Sadie.
The Ashland County Dog Warden visited Johnson’s property when it was reported that a dog had been abandoned there. Sadly, Sadie had already passed away. There was a bag containing dog food in the kitchen, just feet away from where both dogs were confined.
Johnson entered a plea to two counts of animal neglect, both second degree misdemeanors, and was found guilty.
Laney recovered and Johnson surrendered ownership to the Dog Warden today.
State v. Glenda Murray, a case we prosecuted for the Cleveland Animal Protective League.
Glenda Murray was charged related to her neglect of two emaciated, ill dogs tethered without shelter in cold weather. Glenda Murray’s husband, Fuller Murray, who was also charged, is currently serving jail time on felony firearms and assault charges and his animal cruelty case is still awaiting adjudication.
Glenda Murray was found guilty of four counts and was sentenced to the maximum jail term (1 ½ years), all suspended. The suspended time may be imposed if she fails to complete 5 years’ probation. During probation, she is prohibited from owning or keeping any animal. She must also submit to random inspections. Murray must complete 100 hours of community service and pay $230 in restitution to the APL.
State v. Melody and Edward McDonald; cases we prosecuted for the Cleveland Animal Protective League. Both will serve jail time.
The Defendants, husband and wife, were each found guilty of keeping three dogs in filthy conditions. The floors of the residence were caked with animal fecal matter and debris. The house smelled extremely foul. After receiving notice that a complaint had been filed with the APL, Mr. McDonald abandoned several dogs on Independence Road that were never recovered. He claimed that he left the dogs in a “safe place” because the Animal Warden would find them.
The Defendants were sentenced today by Judge Adrine. The McDonalds were given 180 days in jail, with 170 days suspended. They will both serve 10 days, and the remaining suspended time may be imposed if they fail to complete 5 years’ probation. During probation, they are prohibited from owning or keeping any animal. They must also submit to random inspections.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that gives the overall structure and intent for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.
Pursuant to the ADA, if you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may only ask the person who has the animal if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. Documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal cannot be required.
While the ADA does not override other federal laws, it will override state or local laws that provide less protection or benefit. However, if a state or local law provides more protection or greater benefit, it will override the ADA.
Ohio requires that all dogs be licensed, including service dogs.
Ohio Revised Code section 955.011(A) states that “[w]hen an application is made for registration of an assistance dog and the owner can show proof by certificate or other means that the dog is an assistance dog… certificates and tags stamped ‘Ohio Assistance Dog-Permanent Registration,’ with registration number, shall be issued…” and further, in (B)(3) that “’Assistance dog’ means a guide dog, hearing dog, or service dog that has been trained by a nonprofit special agency.”
This language in the Revised Code conflicts with protections specifically afforded by the ADA.
First, that an assistance dog may only be trained by a nonprofit special agency. Pursuant to the ADA, there is no requirement that a service animal be trained by a nonprofit agency, just that it be individually trained.
Second, that proof by certificate or other means is required for the issuance of assistance dog tags. Pursuant to the ADA, if you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may only ask the person who has the animal if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. Documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal cannot be required.
While many Ohio counties simply follow the provisions afforded by the ADA when issuing registration tags, some still wrongly require proof that a service dog was trained by a nonprofit agency.
For more information, contact our offices in Fairlawn and Sharon Center at (877) 239-4480. We help clients resolve dog registration disputes throughout Ohio.
State v. Sixto Gutierrez, a case we prosecuted for the Pawsibilities Humane Society of Greater Akron in Stow Municipal Court.
Defendant Gutierrez pleaded guilty to animal cruelty for the starvation of 3 horses, including a young colt. All of the horses recovered under the care of Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary, Inc.
Gutierrez is not permitted to possess animals of any kind for 5 years and is subject to random inspections to ensure compliance. He must pay a $100 fine and court costs. He faces 90 days in jail and the reinstatement of the remaining $400 in fines if he fails to comply with the terms of probation.