Call Us Toll-Free:
877-239-4480

Ohio 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.

Tagged , , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , ,

Goddard’s Law (HB 60) Summary After Amendment – Ohio Animal Cruelty Bill

Goddard’s Law was originally introduced in 2013 as House Bill 274. Reintroduced in 2015 as House Bill 60, Goddard’s Law has undergone significant changes from its original form. Here is a summary chart of Goddard’s Law as passed by the House and under consideration by the Senate: Holland & Muirden’s Summary of Goddard’s Law

As drafted, an amendment to this bill weakens the ability of our local humane societies to enforce animal cruelty laws and may actually stop humane societies from prosecuting felony animal cruelty altogether. The bill no longer covers egregious acts of neglect, such as starvation and failure to provide veterinary treatment, that result in the animal’s death. If you support felony provisions for the most egregious acts of animal cruelty, contact your Senator and ask them to support the language and intent of House Bill 274.

Tagged , ,

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.

Tagged , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , ,

Sentencing for Youngstown animal neglect case

State v. Akesha Bowman, a case we prosecuted for Animal Charity, the humane society serving Mahoning County.

Bowman was charged with two counts of companion animal cruelty for keeping her dog “Sassy,” (renamed “Hershey,”) in a cage filled with urine and fecal waste. The cage was too small. Sores were observed on the top of her head from rubbing on the bars. She was also emaciated. Bowman pled no contest and was found guilty on both counts.

The dog was forfeited by the Court, and is now doing well in her new home. (Before and after pictures provided below.)

Judge Robert Milich sentenced Bowman to 90 days in jail for each count, consecutive, for a total of 180 days. Jail time is suspended pending completion of 5 years’ probation, the maximum time allowed by law. During that time, she is prohibited from owning or keeping animals, and is subject to inspections by probation or the humane agent to make sure that she is not keeping animals. She was fined $250 plus costs, plus a $100 probation fee for each case, and must complete 80 hours of community service.

bowman photo

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Youngstown man convicted of starving dog

State v. Wendel Gray, a case we prosecuted in the Youngstown Municipal Court for Animal Charity of Ohio, the humane society serving Mahoning County.

Gray was found guilty of one count of companion animal cruelty for failing to provide adequate food for his dog. Given the fact that Gray voluntarily surrendered ownership of the animal, and accepted the fact that he is in no position to keep animals at this time, he was placed on probation for a period of one year. During that time, he is prohibited from owning, keeping or living with any animals. Gray is subject to random inspections by Animal Charity.

If Gray violates the terms of his probation, he could serve up to 90 days in jail. He is also required to pay court costs.

wendell gray case

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 kitten
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
Page 1 of 212