Ohio Changes Law to Make Animal Abuse a Felony for First Offenders

Posted On: June 7th, 2016 by Bradley J. Groene

Pets and service animals have a purpose in the life of their owners. Often times, they are treated as part of the family and are generally well maintained. There are laws in Ohio that ensure that that sort of care is the standard and accordingly criminalizes acts of abuse.

Animal abuse has always been a criminal act, for which one can be arrested and charged. However, first-time animal abuse cases were pursued as misdemeanor charges until now. In May of 2016, the lawmakers of Ohio passed a law that would make it a felony to knowingly harm a pet animal on a first charge.

Why the Change?

For years, animal right advocates were of the opinion that the current law was not strong enough. First-time offenders would be charged with a misdemeanor and penalties were viewed as a slap on the wrist. First-time offenders of animal cruelty could avoid prison time and Ohio represented one of few states which such a light sentencing.

With the maximum penalty being a first-degree misdemeanor, a person who is found guilty could face up to six months and a fine of $1,000. This was considered to be too low for cases in which the offender willfully killed or maimed an animal in his or her care. Under the current law only repeat offenders would face felony charges.

Accordingly, when the Ohio bill passed both houses with majority support, it certainly won the favor of many animal activists. The bill will now go to the Governor for signing before it becomes law.

The new law makes serious physical harm to an animal a fifth-degree felony, which includes the following acts:

  • Physical harm to a pet;
  • Food, water and shelter deprivation;
  • Mutilation or maiming;
  • Intentional killing; and
  • Torture

The bill still needs the signature of the governor, but when that happens, first-time offenders of animal abuse could be facing up to 12 months behind bars and a fine of $250. The consequences are far reaching and will include a criminal record for life which can result in an inability to find gainful employment.

The new law also seeks to give more “teeth” to legal provisions relating to police dogs and service animals.

How a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Cincinnati Can Help You

It is no evidence that would lead one to think that this law will not come into effect. If you find yourself being investigated or charged with animal abuse, it is important that you seek the legal services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Cincinnati like Brad Groene.

A felony charge is no joke and if convicted the penalties are far reaching. Call Brad Groene today at (513) 338-1890 for all your criminal defense issues.