Cleveland APL Applauds Ohio Legislators for Passing Improved Animal Protection Laws

Jason Cook

CLEVELAND, OH (June 13, 2016) – Governor John Kasich recently signed three bills into law that strengthen animal cruelty penalties and protect people who try to help animals in emergencies.

One of the bills, sponsored by Representatives Bill Patmon and David Hall, HB 60, was signed today, and is also known as Goddard’s Law in honor of our own beloved Fox 8 Cleveland Meteorologist and passionate animal advocate Dick Goddard.

First and foremost, Goddard’s Law makes knowingly causing serious physical harm to a companion animal, which is defined as a cat or dog regardless of where they live, or any animal that lives in a residential dwelling, a felony of the fifth degree on a first offense. Previously, offenders could only be charged with a fifth degree felony if they were accused of committing subsequent acts of animal cruelty. The Cleveland APL applauds this significant step forward for the protection of Ohio’s companion animals.

To charge a suspect with a fifth degree felony, there must be evidence that the suspect knowingly caused the animal(s) harm that:

  • Carried an unnecessary or unjustifiable substantial risk of death;
  • Involved either partial or total permanent incapacity;
  • Caused pain resulting in substantial suffering or that was prolonged, severe, or incurable; and/or
  • Knowingly deprived a companion animal of food or water resulting in its death.

Unfortunately, a late amendment was made to HB 60 that prevents humane societies, such as the Cleveland Animal Protective League, which enforce Ohio’s animal protection laws, from using their appointed animal cruelty prosecutors to handle these new felony cases. Appointed prosecutors who specialize in animal cruelty law are able to prioritize and expedite the handling of these cases, minimizing the amount of time that an animal has to live in a cage while held in protective custody.

Cleveland APL has been working on this issue with Representatives Steve Hambley and Dorothy Pelanda through an unrelated piece of legislation.

“We will look forward to continuing to these productive discussions and seeking a resolution when the legislative session resumes in the fall,” said Sharon Harvey, president and CEO of the Cleveland APL. “Our goal is to ensure that animal victims won’t suffer unintended consequences from an otherwise very positive and beneficial piece of legislation.”

HB 60 also allows humane societies to use fines awarded through sentencing to provide additional training for existing humane agents, increases the penalties for killing a police dog or horse, and calls for the development of resources that will help veterinarians to identify clients who may use animals in their care to improperly obtain opioids.

HB 187 – Sponsored by Representative Timothy Ginter, HB 187 allows specified emergency responders to provide certain types of basic, stabilizing care to an injured dog or cat before they are transferred to a veterinarian for treatment. Examples of such care include opening and maintaining airways, giving mouth to snout ventilation or administering oxygen, bandaging and controlling bleeding, and immobilizing fractures. The law will protect them from civil liability and criminal prosecution, as long they acted in good faith and there was no willful misconduct. Veterinarians are also protected from liability or professional disciplinary action as a result of care provided by an emergency responder.

SB 215 – Sponsored by Senators Jim Hughes and Frank LaRose, SB 215 grants rescuers immunity from civil liability for damages caused by using reasonable force to enter a locked motor vehicle and help an animal or minor who is in imminent danger of suffering harm. Rescuers must follow certain steps before and after breaking into a vehicle, such as making a good faith effort to contact 9-1-1, the police, or fire department first; contacting the proper authorities after the animal or child has been removed from the vehicle; leaving information on the vehicle that notifies the owner of the location of the animal and that authorities have been notified; and provides contact information for the rescuer. The rescuer must also remain with the animal or minor in a safe location until law enforcement or emergency responders arrive. This law will go into effect on August 29, 2016.

“We applaud the sponsors of these bills and legislators who voted in favor of their passage. We also extend our deepest gratitude to Dick Goddard for his unwavering commitment to helping animals and for being their voice,” said Sharon Harvey, President & CEO of the Cleveland Animal Protective League. “As the organization that enforces Ohio’s animal cruelty laws in Cuyahoga County, the Cleveland APL looks forward to having a law that better aligns punishment with the severity of the crime against these voiceless animal victims who we’re empowered and privileged to protect.”