Ohio’s Goddard’s Law

Goddard’s Law, H.B. 274, is named after Dick Goddard, a beloved weather anchor for WJW Channel 8 in Cleveland, Ohio. Many Ohioans see him as a hero willing to step up for the animals to strengthen Ohio’s weak animal welfare laws.

Under Goddard’s Law, it would be a felony of the 5th degree on the first offense for anyone to “knowingly cause serious physical harm to a companion animal”. “Serious physical harm” is defined to mean “physical harm that carries a substantial risk of death”; “physical harm that involves either partial or total permanent incapacity”; or “physical harm that involves acute pain of a duration that results in substantial suffering or that involves any degree of prolonged or intractable pain.” It can be difficult to prove “substantial risk of death”, “substantial suffering” or “prolonged pain” when it comes to an animal.

Under current law for owners and caretakers other than dog rescues, and boarding and training dog kennel owners and employees, the knowing torture, torment, needless mutilation or maiming, cruel beating, poisoning, needless killing or other act of cruelty to a companion animal, is a misdemeanor of the first degree on the first offense and a felony of the fifth degree for each subsequent offense. Sec. 959.131(B). Under Goddard’s Law if the companion animal dies as a result of such abuse, the crime would be a felony of the fifth degree on the first offense.

Earlier this year Ohio enacted Nitro’s Law. Under Nitro’s Law it is now a felony of the 5th degree on the first offense for any dog kennel owner or employee to knowingly (1) torture, torment, needlessly mutilate or maim, cruelly beat, poison, needlessly kill or otherwise commit an act of cruelty against a companion animal left in their care; or (2) deprive a companion animal of necessary and sufficient, good, wholesome food and water or access to shelter if the animal would reasonably be expected to become sick or suffer without it. A kennel owner or staff does not include high volume breeders, only dog rescues and boarding and training kennels.

Nitro’s Law also made animal cruelty, any act or omission that causes unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering to a companion animal a misdemeanor of the first degree on the first offense for dog kennel owners and staff. Unless the perpetrator is an owner, manager or other employee of a dog kennel, the crime is a misdemeanor of the second degree on a first offense and a misdemeanor of the first degree on each subsequent offense.

Under Goddard’s law the felony crime applicable to dog rescues and boarding and training dog kennel owners and staff that was established under Nitro’s Law remains intact.

Goddard’s Law would amend the crime of negligence that is now applicable only to dog kennel owner and staff. Under Goddard’s law they could be charged with negligence in the event of deprivation of sufficient, good, wholesome food and water, or deprivation of adequate shelter if it can be reasonably expected the animal will suffer. The crimes would still be misdemeanors of the first degree unless the animal dies in which case the offender would be charged with a felony of the 5th degree.

Goddard’s law would otherwise amend Nitro’s Law to the extent it would be a crime for anyone to negligently “torture, torment, or commit an act of cruelty against the companion animal”, deprive the companion animal of good, wholesome food and water or deprive the companion animal of adequate shelter from the weather if it can reasonably be expected the animal would become sick or suffer. The crimes would be misdemeanors of the second degree on a first offense and a misdemeanor of the first degree on each subsequent offense. If the animal dies, however, the crime would be a felony of the fifth degree.

Goddard’s law is another incremental step to improve Ohio’s animal cruelty laws, for companion animals, that is. Companion animal means any animal kept in a residence and any dog or cat regardless of where they are kept. (Goddard’s Law would clarify this includes dogs and cats held in pet stores.) Like most of the Ohio cruelty laws, Goddard’s law does not protect farm animals, horses and other equines, animals used for research, animals used by breeders other than dogs or cats, or even any dogs used for hunting or in field trials. Sadly, Ohio has chosen to protect only selected animals from cruelty.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Goddard’s Law, H.B. 274, is sponsored by Rep. Bill Patmon (Dist. 10) and Rep. Barbara Sears (Dist. 47). Find your Ohio state legislators here. Write (letters or faxes are best) or call and urge them to support H.B. 274, Goddard’s Law, and offer amendments that would make the law applicable to all animals, not just certain companion animals.