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animal cruelty law

As Temperatures Drop, a Reminder about Shelter Requirements

With the temperature in the teens for the next few days, we’re sending out a reminder about shelter requirements for companion animals pursuant to state code!

Cleveland enacted new animal neglect ordinances in December 2014, which were then enacted by several other localities. Those ordinances provide bright-line rules about what qualifies as appropriate shelter and higher penalties for violations. For cities that have not enacted stricter sheltering guidelines, state code governs.

Ohio Revised Code § 959.131(D)(3) provides that no person who is the custodian or caretaker of a companion animal shall negligently do the following:

“impound or confine the companion animal without affording it. during the impoundment or confinement, with access to shelter from heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, or excessive direct sunlight if it can reasonably be expected that the companion animal would become sick or suffer in any other way as a result of or due to the lack of adequate shelter.”

There is qualifying language to the shelter requirement — “if it can reasonably be expected that the companion animal would become sick or suffer in any other way as a result of or due to the lack of adequate shelter.”

This is a *proactive* statute that can be used in situations where the companion animal is provided with shelter, but that shelter is inadequate considering the extreme temperatures and due to that lack or inadequacy of shelter, the animal could reasonably be expected to suffer. Evidence of suffering is not a necessary element of this crime. The statute provides humane agents (or other law enforcement) with the proactive ability to seize an animal so that the animal does not have to suffer.

Some considerations for humane agents include the adequacy of the shelter in current winter conditions, any visible signs of suffering (such as “flipper walking” or shivering), the breed of dog or type of animal, and how long the animal has been confined outside.

Since R.C. § 959.131(D)(3) defines cruelty as the negligent confinement of a companion animal to a shelter in a manner in which it can reasonably be expected that the companion animal would become sick or suffer, and R.C. § 959.132 provides the authority for a humane agent to take possession of an animal cruelly treated, those two statutes authorize a humane officer to rescue animals from such conditions.

Moreover, some municipalities have ordinances prohibiting chaining or tethering that apply in these circumstances.

Of course, every shelter situation is different and law enforcement should consult with legal counsel and/or veterinary staff as needed.

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Three Bills Signed into Law Concerning Animals’ Protections

Governor John Kasich recently signed three important bills into law that concern protections for this state’s animals. Here is a brief summary of each bill:

(1) SB 215: Grants good faith rescuers immunity from civil liability for damages incurred while using necessary force to enter a locked motor vehicle to help an animal or minor child who is in imminent danger of suffering harm. Rescuers must follow certain steps before and after breaking into a vehicle, which include making a good faith effort to contact law enforcement first, contacting law enforcement after the animal/child has been removed from the vehicle, and leaving information on the vehicle that notifies the owner of the rescuer’s contact information, location of the animal/child, and that authorities have been notified. The rescuer must also remain with the animal/child in a safe location until law enforcement or emergency responders arrive.

(2) HB 60 (“Goddard’s Law”): Makes knowingly causing serious physical harm to a companion animal (a cat, dog, or other animal living in a residential dwelling) chargeable as a fifth degree felony. Under current law, offenders can only be charged with a fifth degree felony for a second act of “knowing” companion animal cruelty or if the offender is an owner, manager, or employee of a dog kennel that commits a first act of “knowing” companion animal cruelty.

HB 60 also allows humane societies to use fines awarded through animal cruelty convictions to provide additional training for existing humane agents, increases the penalties for killing a police dog or horse, and requires development of resources that will help veterinarians identify clients that use animals to improperly obtain opioid drugs.

Unfortunately, HB 60 was amended to prohibit humane societies, the main enforcers of Ohio’s animal protection laws, from using an appointed animal cruelty prosecutor to handle these new felony cases.

(3) HB 187: Allows certain emergency responders to provide basic, stabilizing care to an injured dog or cat before they are transferred to a veterinarian for treatment. HB 187 protects those responders from civil liability and criminal prosecution if they acted in good faith and without willful misconduct. Veterinarians are also protected from liability or professional disciplinary action as a result of care provided by an emergency responder.

Each law will go into effect 90 days after its signing.

Animal law

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Bestiality in Ohio – How Home Rule can help

What is Bestiality?

Bestiality, sexual conduct between a human and an animal, is legal in Ohio unless it can be proven that unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering was caused to the animal. Ohio is one of only a dozen states without a specific law banning bestiality. It is demonstrated that bestiality, like other animal cruelty offenses, often has a correlation to offenses committed against humans. Jeremy Hoffman, a detective with Virginia’s Fairfax County Police, recently told a Senate committee that almost every child pornographer he arrested also had a collection of bestiality pornography.

Many efforts have been made in Ohio to prohibit bestiality, most recently Senate Bill 195 (SB 195). As of April 18, 2016, the bill is stalled in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Taking Action Against Bestiality via “Home Rule”

In Ohio, municipal corporations (cities and villages) have certain powers granted to them in Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution. This is called “home rule.” Article XVIII, § 3 of the Ohio Constitution provides that “[m]unicipalities shall have authority to exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within their limits such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations, as are not in conflict with general laws.”

Thus, it is possible, pursuant to municipalities’ home rule powers, to enact ordinances prohibiting bestiality within their jurisdictions. Some townships in Ohio also have home rule powers and two counties, Summit and Cuyahoga, have charter governments with county-wide home rule powers.

This document contains a model bestiality ordinance that is in accord with the current version of SB 195. In some instances, this model ordinance includes stricter provisions.

Jurisdictions considering enacting this model law should consult with legal counsel.

View the Model Ohio Bestiality Ordinance Here.

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Did the FBI Make all Animal Cruelty a Felony?

A New Category–The FBI Defines Animal Cruelty as a “Felony”

Animal cruelty has long been categorized as a “general” crime by the FBI. The FBI, like Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (Ohio BCI) collects crime reports and organizes them by category. These reports come directly from law enforcement or courts post-conviction; they are not generated by citizens. Recently, the FBI announced it would begin treating animal cruelty crimes as “Class A felonies,” the same as arson, assault, and homicide, and that it would begin specifically tracking crimes committed against animals (animal cruelty).

Accordingly, on January 1, 2016, the FBI began categorizing animal cruelty offenses as “crimes against society,” in four distinct categories–neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organized abuse (dog fighting/cock fighting), and sexual abuse.

The FBI defines cruelty to animals as “Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment.” The FBI definition does not include crimes committed negligently, such as Ohio Revised Code 959.131(c), the companion animal cruelty code.

Animal Cruelty Crimes Are Not All Felonies in Ohio

The meaning of the new FBI classification has been widely misunderstood. The new FBI mechanism for tracking these crimes does not change the penalty classification of animal cruelty crimes in Ohio. It does not make animal cruelty crimes a felony or a federal crime. The FBI will not be investigating local reports of animal cruelty or providing funding to our local Humane Societies or Police. Animal cruelty crimes should still be reported to local law enforcement for investigation. By updating its tracking, the FBI has simply acknowledged that these particular crimes are serious and deserve a closer look.

 In most states, most cruelty is still treated as a misdemeanor. Most animal cruelty crimes in Ohio are second degree misdemeanors, punishable by a fine of up to $750 and 90 days in jail. Ohio has two first-offense felony animal cruelty crimes. First, dog fighting. Second, knowing animal abuse committed against a companion animal by a dog kennel owner, manager, or employee (Nitro’s Law). A second offense of knowing animal cruelty committed against a companion animal is a felony.

While the new FBI classification has no effect on penalties for animal cruelty crimes, the tracking data is used by criminologists, law enforcement, and researchers to analyze trends and, hopefully, prevent future crime.

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Ohio Animal Cruelty Law seminar in Canfield

angels for animals header

Angels for Animals is presenting a seminar: “Animal Cruelty in Ohio, 2014” in Canfield, Ohio on Friday, May 16, 2014, starting at 9 a.m.   Attorney Jeff Holland, who has prosecuted animal cruelty cases for 23 years, will be the presenter.

The course is open to law enforcement officers, including humane agents, attorneys and others interested in animal welfare.  $10 for non-attorneys, $120 for attorneys who will receive 6 CLE credits.

See angelsforanimals.org for more information.

 

 

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“Goddard’s Law” HB 274 Passes Ohio House

House Bill 274, which aims to make Ohio’s most serious animal cruelty crimes a felony on a first offense, passed the Ohio House of Representatives on December 11, 2013. The vote was 84-8.

As passed by the House and outlined in Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s Bill Summary, HB 274 now:
• Prohibits any person from knowingly causing “serious physical harm” to a companion animal.
• Enhances the penalty for any person knowingly torturing, tormenting, needlessly mutilating or maiming, cruelly beating, poisoning, needlessly killing, or committing an act of cruelty against a companion animal if the violation proximately causes the animal’s death.
• Prohibits any person who confines or is the custodian or caretaker of a companion animal from negligently torturing, tormenting, or committing an act of cruelty against the companion animal.
• Prohibits an owner, manager, or employee of a dog kennel who confines or is the custodian or caretaker of a companion animal from negligently torturing, tormenting, or committing an act of cruelty against the companion animal.
• Requires the Attorney General, Veterinary Medical Licensing Board, Board of Pharmacy, and Ohio Veterinary Medical Association to collaborate in developing resources to assist veterinarians in identifying clients who may use their animals to secure opioids for abuse.

Footage of the House Session can be viewed here: House Session – December 11, 2013

HB 274 will now proceed to the Senate. As Representative Ron Gerberry indicated, “this challenge is only partially done.” We encourage everyone to call or write their Senator to voice support for HB 274 “Goddard’s Law.”

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Defendant in starved horse case serves jail time

Update on State v. Antoinette Kuenzer, a case we prosecuted for the Medina County SPCA in the Medina Municipal Court.

Kuenzer was recently sentenced on her conviction for animal cruelty for starving two horses.

Kuenzer was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Kuenzer served 28 days. 62 days were suspended contingent upon successful completion of 5 years’ probation. During probation, she must submit to random drug screening, and is prohibited from owning possessing or living at a residence with animals. She is also subject to random, unannounced inspections.Photo 2

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