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.