Update July 1, 2013: Nitro’s Law has now been signed into law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich as part of the budget law, H.B. 59! The years’ long battle to find justice for Nitro is over with this new law strengthening Ohio’s animal cruelty laws.
Ohio state Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry, sponsor of Nitro’s Law, H.B. 90, in the House of Representatives, reported that a deal was reached with the Senate to pass major portions of the bill; those provisions were then made part of the budget bill, H.B. 59, which was signed into law on June 30, 2013.
The Ohio House of Representatives unanimously passed Nitro’s Law, H.B. 90, by a vote of 98-0.
Nitro’s Law strengthens the state animal cruelty laws by making it a crime for any animal caretaker to negligently commit or omit any act that causes unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering to a companion animal. Under current law the negligent act or omission must be (1) one of “torture, torment, unnecessary mutilation or maiming, cruel beating, poison or unnecessary killing”; or (2) one of deprivation of necessary and good, wholesome food and water or access to shelter if the animal would reasonably be expected to become sick or suffer without it. Under Nitro’s Law (1) would be amended to include any negligent act or omission that causes such pain or suffering. The penalty would still be a misdemeanor of the second degree on a first offense and a misdemeanor of the first degree on each subsequent offense.
Under Nitro’s Law a similar provision that applies only to owners, managers and employees of dog kennels would be a misdemeanor in the first degree. Under the House of Representatives’ version, a prosecutor could decide to charge the kennel owner, manager or employee under the law that applies to all caretakers, a misdemeanor of the second degree on a first offense and a misdemeanor of the first degree for subsequent offenses; or under the specific provision that applies to kennel operators and employees, a misdemeanor of the first degree. Under the version signed into law, there is no such choice; the crime is always a misdemeanor in the first degree.
Nitro’s Law also would create new crimes prohibiting dog kennel owners, managers or employees from knowingly (1) torturing, tormenting, needlessly mutilating or maiming, cruelly beating, poisoning, needlessly killing or otherwise committing an act of cruelty against a companion animal left in their care; or (2) depriving a companion animal of necessary and good, wholesome food and water or access to shelter if the animal would reasonably be expected to become sick or suffer without it. These crimes would be a felony in the fifth degree. Under the House of Representatives’ version a prosecutor could charge the kennel operator or employee under the similar law that applies to all owners; the penalty is a misdemeanor of the first degree on a first offense and a felony of the fifth degree for subsequent offenses. Under the version signed into law, there is no such choice; this crime by a kennel owner, manager or employee is a felony in the fifth degree.
Nitro, the dog
As you might imagine, Nitro’s Law is named for Nitro, a dog who died needlessly while in the custody of an Ohio dog kennel. Read his story here. Nitro’s Law is his family’s fight to make sure Ohio dog kennel operators can be punished with more than a misdemeanor for cruelly starving or abusing companion animals in their care.