Bill modifies penalties for animal cruelty, with focus on companion animals
Months before the current controversy of alleged animal cruelty by employees of Conklin Dairy Farms, Rep. Williams and Combs introduced H.B. 55 to revise portions of Ohio’s animal cruelty law. Yesterday, the Ohio House passed the animal cruelty bill, which had been introduced last March.
H.B. 55 focuses largely on cruelty to “companion animals,” which includes dogs, cats, and any animal kept inside a residential dwelling. Changes to the companion animals provisions include authority to order child offenders to undergo counseling and psychological treatment, inclusion of companion animals in court protection orders, and requirements for the State to approve continuing education courses on animal abuse counseling for medical and social work professions.
In regards to cruelty to animals other than companion animals, H.B. 55 adds a new penalty provision. The penalty remains a second degree misdemeanor for first offenses, but increases to a first degree misdemeanor for subsequent violations of the law. Current law addresses each offense as a second degree misdemeanor. Under Ohio law, a first degree misdemeanor can result in a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, while a second degree misdemeanor violation carries a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.
What is cruelty to animals? Ohio’s animal cruelty law is Ohio Revised Code section 951.13, which states that “no person shall:
- (1) Torture an animal, deprive one of necessary sustenance, unnecessarily or cruelly beat, needlessly mutilate or kill, or impound or confine an animal without supplying it during such confinement with a sufficient quantity of good wholesome food and water;
- (2) Impound or confine an animal without affording it, during such confinement, access to shelter from wind, rain, snow, or excessive direct sunlight if it can reasonably be expected that the animals would otherwise become sick or in some other way suffer. Division (A)(2) of this section does not apply to animals impounded or confined prior to slaughter. For the purpose of this section, shelter means a man-made enclosure, windbreak, sunshade, or natural windbreak or sunshade that is developed from the earth’s contour, tree development, or vegetation;
- (3) Carry or convey an animal in a cruel or inhumane manner;
- (4) Keep animals other than cattle, poultry or fowl, swine, sheep, or goats in an enclosure without wholesome exercise and change of air, nor or feed cows on food that produces impure or unwholesome milk;
- (5) Detain livestock in railroad cars or compartments longer than twenty-eight hours after they are so placed without supplying them with necessary food, water, and attention, nor permit such stock to be so crowded as to overlie, crush, wound, or kill each other.”
Before passing H.B. 55 yesterday, the House included floor amendments that make minor revisions to the dangerous and vicious dog provisions in Ohio Revised Code 955.11.
The Ohio Senate has not introduced a similar animal cruelty bill, and has only a few more sessions until its summer recess begins in early June. If the Senate doesn’t pass the animal cruelty legislation before the end of the year, the bill will expire and must be reintroduced after January, in the next session of the Ohio General Assembly.
Animal rights groups have advocated around the country for stiffer penalties on animal cruelty offenses. Most state animal cruelty laws contain both misdemeanor and felony penalties, with the more severe felony charges typically applying to acts that are intentional, heinous or involve mutilation. Under Ohio law, felony charges apply to certain offenses against companion animals and some dog-fighting offenses. For an overview of state animal cruelty laws, visit this publication by the Michigan Animal Legal and Historical Center. View the entire chapter of Ohio law on offenses to domestic animals, which includes the animal cruelty law and various penalty provisions, here.