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Felony Animal Cruelty

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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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 House Bill 198 Reduces Humane Societies’ Power to Protect Animals

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.

Find your Legislator here: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislators/find-my-legislators

HB 198 Hurts Animals

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Severe dog starvation case resolved, Jesse Fry goes to jail

State v. Jesse Fry, a case we prosecuted for the Medina County SPCA.

Fry’s dog “Chronos,” now known as “Brutus,” was kept in a crate too small to stand up in, forcing the dog to lay in his own excrement. He suffered a urine scald and brown urine and feces stains were visible on his body. Today, months after this case began, some of the stains are still visible.

Brutus was severely emaciated. Ordinarily, the body condition score for a live dog ranges from 1-9. Brutus’ BCS was unusually described as a “0” out of 9 on the scale, because of his exceptionally poor body condition. Treating staff were astonished that Brutus was still alive.

Defendant was found guilty of four counts of companion animal cruelty, including a first degree misdemeanor count.

Defendant was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 81 of which were suspended. Fry will serve 9 days. Fry must also complete 50 hours of community service, and pay a $100 fine, court costs, and $889.27 in restitution for Brutus’ care. Fry was placed on 5 years of active probation, during which time he cannot own, keep, possess, or reside with any animals, will be subject to random inspections, and must undergo a mental health assessment. He must find a new place to live within 60 days to comply with the requirement that he cannot reside with animals.

Fry is prohibited from owning companion animals indefinitely.

The first picture in this series is Brutus during his first veterinary visit. The second photograph is after a few days of treatment. The last picture depicts Brutus today, still in recovery. Brutus has been adopted by a veterinary technician that cared for him.

Starved dog Wadsworth Ohio

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State v. Joshua Maldonado, Cleveland Animal Abuser Convicted

State v. Joshua Maldonado, a case we prosecuted for the Cleveland Animal Protective League.

Maldonado was found guilty of one count of animal cruelty, a first degree misdemeanor, for the injury to his dog “Diamond.”

In this case, witnesses reported either seeing or hearing the Defendant beat Diamond. When the APL responded to the complaints, Diamond was found with injuries consistent with trauma. Diamond was limping with an injury to her hip that caused her left hind leg to be too painful to use. Diamond was dragging that leg behind her, causing her toe nails and paw pads to wear down and become infected. Two nails were ripped out, two were partially missing, and part of her paw pad was also missing.

Defendant was sentenced to 180 days in jail, a $500 fine and court costs, all suspended. He was also ordered to pay $500 in restitution to the APL. Defendant was placed on a 5 year term of active probation. During that time, he may not keep or possess any animals, and is subject to random inspections. Defendant must also complete community service hours.

Diamond underwent two surgeries to correct her injuries and has since been adopted.

Veterinary neglect Maldonado

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Ohio HB 274 “Goddard’s Law” Assigned to Senate Agriculture Committee

HB 274 “Goddard’s Law” has been assigned to the Ohio Senate Agriculture Committee. A sponsor hearing must be scheduled for this Bill to move on.

HB 274:
• 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.

Now is a great time to write Committee Chairman Cliff Hite and politely request that a sponsor hearing be scheduled and to ask the committee members for their “Yes” vote on Goddard’s Law! Contact the committee here: http://www.ohiosenate.gov/committee/agriculture

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H&M Presents: Ohio Animal Welfare Cruelty & Neglect Investigations: A Legal Perspective

The Humane Society of Greater Dayton hosts:
J. Jeffrey Holland
Holland & Muirden, Attorneys at Law

Join us for an informational session on animal cruelty and neglect laws and cases.

Topics include:
• Ohio’s Primary Animal Cruelty Laws
• Notice of Seizure and the Probable Cause Hearing
• Dog Liability Laws – Civil & Criminal
• Fighting Animals & Other Cruelty Laws
• Penalties for Animal Cruelty
• Search and Seizure
• The Elegant Cruelty Report
• Exotics
• Nitro’s Law
• Legislative Updates
• Being a Better Sleuth
• Vicious and Dangerous Dogs
• Case Law Overview

• Thursday, February 6, 2014
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
• Friday, February 7, 2014
8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Sinclair Community College
Criminal Justice Training Academy
214 S. Wilkinson, Dayton, Ohio 45402

Class size is limited! Ticket Information.
Cost is $100.

For more information, contact Brian Weltge at (937) 262-5928.

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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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Goddard’s Law Summary – Ohio Animal Cruelty Bill

Here is a summary of proposed Ohio House Bill 274: Holland & Muirden’s Summary of Goddard’s Law

“M” stands for misdemeanor.
“F” stands for felony.

In the state of Ohio, misdemeanors and felonies are categorized by degrees. Punishments for each degree are limited by Ohio law.

A felony of the fifth degree carries a maximum prison sentence of 6-12 months with a maximum fine of $2,500.

For a misdemeanor of the first degree, the highest degree of misdemeanor violation, offenders are not to serve more than six months in jail with a maximum fine of $1,000.

A second degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $750.

If passed, Ohio’s most serious animal cruelty crimes will be a felony on a first offense. Please write or call your Ohio Representative and Ohio State Senators and let them know that you want this law to pass.

House Bill No. 274 (aka “Goddard’s Law”; Introduced 9/30/13)
Sponsors: Representatives Bill Patmon (D-10) and Barbara Sears (R-47)
Cosponsors: Representatives Barnes, Cera, Lundy
Current Status: Introduced in the Ohio House on 9/30; Assigned to House Judiciary Committee on 10/1

Summary: To amend sections 959.131, 959.132, and 959.99 of the Revised Code to revise provisions and penalties regarding treatment of companion animals and to revise the definition of “companion animal” in the Offenses Relating to Domestic Animals Law.

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