JUNE 13 UPDATE: Nitro’s Law was not voted on by the Ohio Senate in today’s last session before the summer break, so it is essentially shelved for a few months, according to an update on the Nitro Foundation HB 70 Law in Ohio Facebook page.
Pit Bulls and dogs that look like them will no longer automatically be labeled as “vicious” by the state of Ohio. And “Nitro’s Law” – legislation that would make some cases of animal abuse a felony instead of a misdemeanor – passed the Ohio House by a wide margin last week.
This morning, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill (H.B.) 14 into law. When the law takes effect in 90 days, Ohio will no longer be the only U.S. state with legislation that designates all Pit Bulls as being vicious.
According to the Toledo Blade, the new law removes specific breeds from the definitions of “vicious” and “dangerous” dogs, and creates a new category of “nuisance” dogs.
It also allows pet parents to appeal the labeling of their dogs by law enforcement. Dog wardens must provide clear and convincing evidence that a dog is actually vicious or dangerous.
The new law does not, however, affect existing Pit Bull bans in individual Ohio cities.
Among the many animal advocates supporting the passage of H.B. 14 was country music legend Willie Nelson, who called Ohio’s 24-year-old dog law “archaic.”
Another dog-related Ohio bill, H.B. 108 – also known as “Nitro’s Law” – passed the House last Wednesday.
“It was 78-9 and that is a very strong vote coming out of the House, and I’m looking forward to getting it over to the Senate,” State Rep. Ron Gerberry, a co-sponsor of the bill, told wytv.com.
The legislation was named after a Rottweiler who starved to death in 2008 while staying at the High Caliber K-9 kennel in Youngstown, Ohio. The formerly 110-pound dog was so emaciated that police officers initially mistook him for a Doberman. Although more than a dozen other dead or starving dogs were found along with Nitro, the facility’s owner, Steve Croley, was charged with just four misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.
If Nitro’s Law is passed, animal cruelty and abuse by kennel owners and animal caretakers would become a fifth-degree felony instead of a misdemeanor.
Nikki Moustaki, a pet expert who ate dog food to campaign for the law, said, “The dog-food-eating campaign is funny, but the reality of animal abuse is not funny – it’s sad and real, and if Nitro’s Law can save even one animal, all of this will have been worth it.”
The bill must now pass the Ohio Senate before the end of the year.