CLEVELAND (WJW) — Goddard’s Law, or Senate Bill 164, passed the Ohio House early Thursday morning, making the punishment for neglect or harm of a pet more severe. It now moves on to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s desk.
The law was named after Fox 8 Meteorologist Dick Goddard. It was signed into law in 2016 and made neglect or harm of a pet a fifth-degree felony.
However, the maximum penalty for even the most horrific act of animal cruelty was one year in jail.
Goddard, a longtime champion for the “four-foots,” pushed for the bill’s passage for several years.
Under Senate Bill 164, the most egregious fifth-degree felony offenses committed against companion animals under current law will be classified as “acts of violence,” according to the Animal Protective League of Ohio.
This makes more convictions non-expungable, which means they will remain on the offender’s criminal record for life and allow law enforcement and the courts to identify these offenders.
Also, this classification removes the existing presumption against incarceration for these offenses and allows judges to have discretion in sentencing. The bill also included a provision to prohibit the killing of domestic animals using a gas chamber.
Before the vote, the APL urged Ohioans to contact their local representatives to get State Bill 164 passed.
“The link between animal abuse and violence towards humans has been well-documented,” the APL said in a press release. “By allowing judges to contemplate prison time for these very serious crimes and keeping these most egregious offenses on the offender’s criminal record, the state will be acknowledging this critical correlation. Not only will this law enhance protections for companion animals, but also for people and society.”
With the governor’s signature, an animal cruelty conviction will remain on a person’s record for life, similar to what happens when someone is convicted of domestic violence.