COLUMBUS—State Representative Steve Hambley (R-Brunswick) today announced the Ohio House passage of House Bill 24, legislation that updates the Ohio Revised Code relating to humane societies and their agents.
HB 24 improves public accountability for humane society organizations and their agents and encourages a more consistent and coordinated enforcement of animal cruelty laws. HB 24 is the culmination of nearly five years of work and 20 different working versions of this legislation.
“This legislation will bring the code up to date with current humane society practices, while improving the public accountability for these organizations and their agents,” said Hambley. “It will likewise encourage a more consistent and coordinated enforcement of animal cruelty laws.”
The legislation takes many steps to update the revised code regarding Humane Society Law, the appointment of Humane Agents and the use of Special Prosecutors. HB 24 requires each county humane society, and the Ohio Humane Society, to submit an annual report of enforcement activities to the appropriate county sheriff.
HB 24 specifies that the records of an enforcement activity by a humane society agent are public records under Ohio Public Records Law, the procedures for the removal from office of a humane society agent for “just cause,” and that a humane society agent is a "public servant" for the purposes of bribery law and is therefore subject to the criminal statute on bribery.
Furthermore, the legislation prohibits a humane society from entering into a written agreement not to prosecute a person for an alleged violation of law unless the agreement has been reviewed and approved by a judge. It also expands the current law, which governs the seizure and impoundment of companion animals, to apply to the seizure and impoundment of any animal when related to a violation of domestic animal law. The written notice, which the impounding officer must provide to the owner, must be given not later than 24 hours after the animal was seized and impounded.
The law governing the amount of bond that a court may determine must be provided by the owner of the animal for the care of the animal during impoundment is modified in HB 24 using a “necessary and reasonable” standard. Additionally, the minimum monthly salary of humane agents for human agents is also increased for the first time since 1953. HB 24 also gives County Commissioners the flexibility to pay for the Humane Agents and appointed prosecuting attorneys of animal abuse cases out of the general fund or the dog and kennel fund, as they so choose.
House Bill 24 passed the Ohio House unanimously and now heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.