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Right to Register Service Dogs in Ohio Pursuant to the ADA

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.

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Summit County horse starvation case results in conviction

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.

equine law starved horses

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Rootstown, Ohio woman found guilty of 11 counts of animal neglect

State v. Danette Kerr, a case we prosecuted for the Portage County APL was resolved today.

112 animals were seized from Kerr’s property on July 22, 2014. 18 dogs and 3 cats exhibited signs of neglect including dehydration, emaciation, matted fur, severe dental disease and a variety of untreated conditions that caused suffering.

82 birds were kept in conditions of extreme filth, including accumulation of urine and fecal ammonia which caused rescuer’s eyes to water and throat to burn. Conditions for the animals included emaciation, urine scalded feet and overgrown beaks. 29 dead birds were also found in a freezer on the property.

Horses showed various signs of neglect, including malnourishment, muscle wasting, dehydration, and excessive exposure to filth and flies.

Danette Kerr was found guilty of 6 first degree misdemeanors and 5 second degree misdemeanor charges of animal neglect. Kerr paid $14,100 for costs incurred in caring for the animals. She is on probation for 5 years. During that time, she is subject to random inspections to make sure that she is caring properly for her three current pets. She must also have a mental health assessment and follow up with recommended treatment. 

Our goal in these cases is first to save the animals, and second to prevent future incidents. In cases like this, mental health treatment along with inspections over 5 years (the maximum term of probation) has proven to be more effective for preventing future violations than an immediate jail term. If Kerr does violate any of the terms of probation, she is facing 180 days in jail.

kerr dog

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Seville, Ohio couple to serve jail time for starving dogs

State v. Augusta and Burdett Crandall; cases we prosecuted for the Medina County SPCA.  Both will serve jail time and are prohibited from keeping companion animals indefinitely.

The Defendants, husband and wife, were each found guilty of companion animal cruelty for starving their dogs Thor and Loki (later renamed Abu and Andor).

The Defendants were sentenced today by Judge McIlvaine of the Wadsworth Municipal Court.  Burdett Crandall was given 90 days in jail, with 75 days suspended.  Augusta was given 90 days in jail with 80 days suspended.  That means he will serve 15 days, and she will serve 10.  The remaining suspended time may be imposed if they fail to complete 5 years’ probation.  During probation, they are prohibited from owning, keeping or living in a residence with animals.  They must also submit to random inspections.   There was no fine, but they must pay court costs and $5,304.17 restitution to the Medina County SPCA.  Finally, they are prohibited from owning or keeping companion animals indefinitely.

At sentencing, Augusta Crandall acknowledged that she went to school for veterinary practice for one and a half years before giving it up for financial reasons.

We are pleased that Judge McIlvaine has sent a strong message to the community about the seriousness of animal neglect.

Before photo SKMBT_C35314091615590

After photo Andor 2

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Wadsworth man convicted of throwing kitten against a truck.

Holidays notwithstanding, the work of bringing justice to abused animals goes on.

State v. Eric Kresowaty is another case we are prosecuting for the Medina County SPCA. The Defendant pled guilty today to one count of companion animal cruelty for throwing a kitten against a parked truck. The Defendant’s four year old daughter was the only eyewitness, making the case somewhat difficult. 

The case was referred to the probation department for a presentence investigation. A sentencing hearing will be held at a later time in the Wadsworth Municipal Court.

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Neglect of dog results in 48 days in jail for Medina man.

State v. Randall Rees, a case we prosecuted for the Medina County SPCA in the Medina Municipal Court. Defendant was convicted of companion animal neglect for failure to provide proper care of Kali, a 10 month old pit bull. Kali suffered from demodex mange and severe itching resulting in the loss of most of her fur. 
 
Rees spent 42 days in jail for this offense. He is on probation for 3 years, and may serve another 48 days in jail if he violates the terms of his probation. Rees is also required to pay $290 restitution to the SPCA.

Medina Ohio Attorneys Animal Cruelty Case

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Eastlake, Ohio residents convicted of animal neglect.

State v. Robert Fatica; State v. Laura Tamura. This is a case we prosecuted in the Willougby Municipal Court for the Lake Humane Society.

Defendants Robert Fatica and Laura Tamura were found guilty of companion animal neglect for keeping 13 cats in their home in Eastlake, Ohio in filthy conditions. The animals were matted, suffering from parasites, severe dermatitis and hair loss.

Fatica is not permitted to possess animals of any kind for 3 years; Tamura for 2 years. Both are subject to random inspections. They must pay a fine, court costs and $1,825 each in restitution to the Humane Society to repay them for the costs of rehabilitating the animals. Each one faces up to 90 days in jail if they fail to comply with the terms of probation.

filthy cat cage
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Dog neglect conviction in Wadsworth, Ohio

State v. Lisa Laux, a case we prosecuted in the Wadsworth Municipal Court for the Medina County SPCA:

Laux was convicted of companion animal neglect for allowing her 10 year old shitzu to become severely matted, especially around its eyes, with untreated eye infections which caused the animal to become blind. The dog was humanely euthanized at the veterinarian’s recommendation. This photo was taken after the mats were shaved away.

Laux was sentenced by Acting Judge David Jack to 30 days jail, suspended contingent upon successful completion of 1 year probation. During probation, Laux cannot own or possess animals, and is subject to random inspections by the SPCA or probation. She was fined $100 plus costs, and must pay $250 to the SPCA as restitution. Laux was distraught, and pledged that she will never own animals again.

laux dog
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Two guilty in dog severe starvation case in Wadsworth, Ohio

State v. Augusta and Burdett Crandall, cases we prosecuted for the Medina County SPCA.The Defendants were both found guilty this week of two counts of companion animal cruelty in one of the worst starvation cases we have seen. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date in the Wadsworth Municipal Court. Holland & Muirden, Attorneys at Law's photo.

Holland & Muirden, Attorneys at Law's photo.
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Divorce and Separation: Who gets to keep the family pet?

Conflicts over a pet can be just as serious to divorcing spouses or separating couples as any other issue. Many couples consider their pet to be a family member or child and it can be difficult to come to a mutual agreement about which person should keep the pet. Unlike real children, for which specific laws about custody and visitation exist, pet custody issues have been largely ignored by domestic relations and civil laws.

In Ohio, pets are considered to be personal property like your chair or toaster oven. Thus, when couples are dividing their property due to divorce or separation, courts usually follow the same guidelines they use to determine who gets to keep personal property when deciding issues about pet custody.

Pet Parenting/Custody Agreements

Coming to an agreement about pet custody and visitation can help to avoid unnecessary litigation costs and stress. A “pet parenting plan” allows couples to make joint decisions about custody, visitation rights, who pays for pet expenses (vet bills, grooming), etc. A pet parenting plan is a formalized contract, and can even be incorporated into dissolution or divorce agreements.

Court Intervention

In the event that the parties cannot come to an agreement, parties can seek to have a court decide issues related to pet custody. Some courts are becoming more open-minded and taking into consideration factors that can help them reach a determination about where a pet will live. In some states, courts have awarded shared custody or visitation rights after reviewing evidence and testimony provided by the pet’s owners and expert witnesses regarding what is in the pet’s best long term interest.

However, it is important to note that courts have no specific power to take into account the pet’s best interests since pets are considered “property.” Reaching an agreement out of court nearly always results in a better outcome for pets and their people.

For more information, contact our offices in Fairlawn and Sharon Center at (877) 239-4480. We help clients resolve animal custody disputes throughout northeast Ohio.

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