The Ohio House and Senate has passed Goddard's Law, making first-time animal abuse a felony offense.
House Bill 60, otherwise referred to as Goddard's Law, states that anyone who knowingly causes physical harm to a companion animal, including depriving the pet of food, water, or shelter, will be charged with a fifth-degree felony, Cleveland.com reports.
Those convicted will be given six months to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
The bill is named after WJW Channel 8 weatherman Dick Goddard, 85, an animal activist.
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Ohio lawmakers passed the bill May 25 with a unanimous Senate vote of 33-0, and a House approval of new amendments vote of 92-1, Yahoo! News reports.
"Something people said was impossible is possible tonight," Democratic State Rep. Bill Patmon, who co-sponsored the bill, said.
“It was a minor misdemeanor before. A lot of times it was a slap on the wrist,” Republican State Rep. Dave Hall, the bill's other co-sponsor, told Yahoo! News. “So we felt that we needed to put teeth into the law in Ohio.”
All 50 states currently have felony penalties for animal cruelty, but Ohio will now make any animal cruelty charge a felony, whereas before a misdemeanor was possible.
“This is a significant change that recognizes the serious danger of perpetrators who subject animal victims to prolonged suffering, be it by active physical abuse or leaving an animal to die slowly by starvation,” said Lora Dunn, a staff attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Program.
The bill also requires that state officials develop resources for veterinarians to help them identify when an individual is using their pet to get opioids. Goddard's Law imposes a mandatory prison sentence for assaulting a police dog or horse that dies from its sustained injuries, as well, according to Cleveland.com.
Goddard’s Law will go to Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s desk to be officially signed into law.