Ohio passes felony animal cruelty law


May 26, 2016: Ohio lawmakers passed a law that would make it a fifth-degree felony to knowingly harm a pet by inflicting pain or depriving it of food, water, or shelter for a first offense.

On Wednesday, House Bill 60 passed through the state Senate unanimously with a 33-0 vote, and the House approved of new amendments by a 92-1 vote.

Sponsored by Reps. Dave Hall (R-Millersburg) and Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland), the bill was nicknamed Goddard’s Law after Dick Goddard, a Cleveland weatherman who has advocated for strengthening the penalties against animal abusers for years. The bill is waiting to be signed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Once signed into law, HB 60 will make it illegal for anyone to “knowingly torture, torment, needlessly mutilate or maim, cruelly beat, poison, needlessly kill, or commit an act of cruelty against a companion animal.” The move was a long time coming, according to one of the sponsors.

“It was a minor misdemeanor before. A lot of times it was a slap on the wrist,” so we felt that we needed to put teeth into the law in Ohio,” said Hall. Under Ohio law, a fifth-degree felony is punishable by six to twelve months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Goddard’s Law is indicative of a larger shift within national law enforcement toward protecting animals from abuse. In January, the FBI started tracking animal cruelty as a separate offense in its National Incident-Based Reporting System.

Goddard’s Law makes knowingly causing serious physical harm to an animal a felony offense the very first time.

“If you choose to harm companion animals, you may be choosing to be a felon for the rest of your life.”

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