In a disappointing show of inaction, legislators in the Ohio Senate failed to toughen up the state's animal cruelty laws.
A measure called Goddard's Law will have to start from scratch after expiring at the feet of the state's Senate.
The prohibition against causing "serious physical harm" to a companion animal would have made such acts a fifth-degree felony. Under current Ohio law, first-time offenders are charged with misdemeanors and subsequent offenders face felony charges. Such misdemeanors included a case in 2013, when an Ohio man was fined $25 for allegedly leaving a German shepherd tied to a tree for four years.
Dick Goddard, 83, an animal advocate and Cleveland meteorologist, had hoped that the legislation he championed would impose harsher penalties on animal abusers.
"We've gotta do it," Goddard told Fox 8 Cleveland in 2013, during the bill's announcement. "We gotta hop into the 21st century as far as animal abuse goes, we've gotta get it into a felony category and with everybody's help, by golly we're gonna do it."
Ohio's hop to the 21st century, however, will now have a much longer arc.
The bipartisan bill passed Ohio's House 84-4 in 2013, but the Senate let it drop instead of bringing it to a vote in the 2013-2014 legislative year. It expired at the end of December.
Cleveland.com's editorial board wrote about the lengthy road state lawmakers will have to take to bring the measure back to life:
They must introduce the bill all over again for the 2015-2016 General Assembly, lobby to get it approved by a standing committee, then lobby even more to get the bill onto the legislative floor, and passed, by one General Assembly chamber. Then the foes of animal cruelty must duplicate those steps in the other General Assembly chamber – all because of the Senate's indifference.
The bill's failure is a setback for animals and their advocates, but across the U.S., stricter penalties for animal abuse are becoming the norm. In May 2014, South Dakota's governor signed into law a bill that makes "worst case" animal cruelty a felony, bringing the state closer in line with the rest of the country - all 50 states now include some form of felony charge for animal cruelty.