Tag Archives: Nitro Foundation

Liz Raab, a Rottie Mom

“We need (BOG) boots on the ground!  We need an army to do this!”  With those words Liz Raab from Queens, New York, became commander and chief of one of the savviest, most successful, social media campaigns any state legislature has ever faced.

Four feet, eleven inches tall, “Liz took Ohio by storm,” affirmed Wendy Flickering-Smith, one of Liz’s lieutenants.  She commandeered  a grassroots core of 2,000 animal activists, ”Nitro’s Ohio Army”,  with the lilt of her New York accent, straight talk from the heart, and a Facebook page.    “I always tell them the truth.  That’s why they go the extra mile,” assured Liz. 

Liz launched her Ohio campaign from her battle station far away in one of the boroughs in NYC, successfully using her own fiery brand of charisma, animal passion, people smarts, and a “don’t back down” attitude.  She motivated her Ohio troops in 88 counties to unyielding action on behalf of ground-breaking, companion animal legislation, HB 90, “Nitro’s Law”.  With the enactment of “Nitro’s Law”, intentional animal cruelty by owners, managers, and employees in a kennel became a felony. 

                                                               Nitro’s Tragedy

Liz began her battle to enact the initial “felony first”, animal cruelty legislation in Ohio shortly after a personal tragedy.  Her beloved three-year old, Rottweiler, Nitro, was left with food, toys, full medical coverage, and anticipation of additional training in a Youngstown kennel, while she and her husband, Tom Siesto, kept vigil at the hospital bed of her ailing father.

When they came to pick up Nitro, they were stunned by the nightmarish scene and horrific news.  Nitro was in a freezer waiting for them.  The boarding kennel had been a hell hole, with no food or water for the animals lodged there.  The nineteen dogs there had been left in a house of death.  Nitro and six other animals had died slow, painful deaths, day by day, while boarded at the kennel. 

An additional twelve animals were in deplorable physical condition, severely underweight, dehydrated, and near starvation.  How could this happen?  Liz and Tom’s much-loved animal went from a healthy 105 pounds when they left him at the kennel to 50 pounds at his death weeks later.

Ohio’s hideously weak animal laws revealed themselves at the criminal trial of the kennel owner.  For severe, animal cruelty, the agonizing deaths by dehydration and starvation of seven dogs and the near deaths of twelve additional animals, all of which had been left by their owners in his care, the kennel owner was subject to a misdemeanor charge with four months in jail with four counts of animal cruelty.  He then declared bankruptcy, which allowed him to avoid paying for the animals in the lawsuit.

                                                   The Commander Strategizes

This general would never leave behind her fallen comrade.  “Change doesn’t happen unless there is a tragedy,” Liz acknowledged.  She mustered up the grit to endure five years and three tours of duty in the Ohio General Assembly to see enacted a felony five provision in the Ohio Revised Code. 

Liz, her daughter Christina, her husband Tom, and her thousands of soldiers in Nitro’s  Army, sacrificed much and campaigned tirelessly with the Ohio legislators to put Ohio, which had been 34th in animal protections, on a playing field with the other states, forty-nine of which had felony provisions for animal abuse.

“I am far from a quitter.  When someone tells me it cannot be done, I push ahead more,” asserted Liz.  With her Army, Liz facilitated peaceful rallies throughout Ohio on behalf of animal welfare.  The troops attended pet shows, parades, events, and expositions to educate the public about animal cruelty legislation.  Platoons went door to door to collect signatures.  Liz sent battalions to monitor specific, animal cruelty cases in courthouses throughout Ohio.

In addition, she initiated her “Wanted Wednesdays” program. On Wednesdays,  Liz featured “cold cases” of Ohio animal abuse and cruelty on social media.  “People send me their cases from all over Ohio.  Sometimes the media sends them to me too,” Liz stated. 

How did the 27,000 animal lovers who followed Liz on Facebook feel about her mission to protect companion animals?  Kristina Manley, a soldier in “Nitro’s Ohio Army”, wrote, “Every Wanted Wednesday lights my fire to do more! Yes, it’s heartbreaking, but every one of those stories feeds my desire to change the world. It reminds me what we are fighting for. I don’t want those animals to have suffered in vain. I want to stop all the suffering. I will stand by all of those animals who have been wronged.”

Liz strategized her maneuvers for success in the Ohio General Assembly all the way from New York, speaking weekly with State Representative Ron Gerberry, from Youngstown, Ohio, where Nitro’s tragedy happened.  She kept in touch personally with many of the state representatives and senators by phone and by e-mail.

The general was on her war game “24/7”.  When in Columbus, a nine and a half hour drive from her home, she met personally with as many members of the Ohio Congress as she could.  She watched all the taped versions of the Ohio General Assembly and its committees to study the personalities of the individuals, their preferences, their interests, their special projects.  The general was mapping out her war plan.

Where did she get her grit?   Liz answered, “I’m a Rottie mom.  In all honesty, I’m just true to my breed.  A Rottie is a very loving and caring animal, but he’s forceful when necessary … God sent this terrible situation with Nitro to me.  It was my destiny.  I believe that this was meant to happen because God knew that I would do something.  He sent it so we could enact legal protections for animals.  And we are going to keep on doing it!”

                                                             The Five-year Trek

What was a five-year trek through the Ohio General Assembly like?  Liz replied, “There were no highs along the way, no clear victories. There were a lot of disappointments.”   Still, she mustered on.  It seemed in 2012 with the Ohio House approving HB 90 and an informal poll taken of the senators’ votes, that “Nitro’s Law” was headed for a long-awaited victory.  But the Ohio Senate president refused to put the bill to the floor for a vote.  Another opportunity for improved laws in Ohio died.

Thankfully, the tides turned favorably in the spring of 2013.  Ohio Governor Kasich signed into law HB 90, “Nitro’s Law”.  It was step one, an incremental part of a journey to increasingly strengthen Ohio animal protections.   Liz announced, “We’ll be back in the fall.  My dream is to see all of the animal groups in Ohio, the groomers, the breeders, the rescuers, the hobby breeders, the sportsmen, all come together.  They need to check their feelings and preferences at the door and work together for what is best for Ohio animals. 

“Nitro and his kennel mates will now be able to rest in peace.  This law will make a huge difference.  It will be built upon, in future General Assemblies, to include more and more (legal protections) for our companion animals, our family members.”

Now, even though “Nitro’s Law” had been enacted, Liz and her regiments in the Army remained on active duty.  All of their successful campaigns continued in their Ohio garrison for the “next step”, felony for  animal cruelty.

Liz Raab, commander of “Nitro’s Ohio Army”, distinguished herself in her call to duty.   She showed unparalleled courage and dignity during and after the deaths of her beloved Nitro and each of her dear parents.  In spite of her own health issues, she soldiered on with extraordinary leadership and selflessness, animating the troops with photos, songs, and funny pictures.  

When enemy forces bore down, she wielded her mightiest weapon.  She sent her soldiers pouring down on Ohio senators and Ohio representatives with calls, letters, and visits.   She lit up social media with gospel choirs singing “Oh, Happy Day!” to rally the troops to action. On other days she ignited combat operations with raucous music, like “I’m Not Afraid to Take A Stand” and “Bad Boys, Bad Boys Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You?” 

                                                         Mission Accomplished

We salute you, Liz!  Mission accomplished.   Ohio enacted its first “felony first” law, “Nitro’s Law”, to protect the defenseless, companion animals and their owners.  We await the enactment soon of its sister bill, HB 45, Humane Officer Training.

One determined woman from New York stayed the course for five years, directed a huge social media blitzkrieg from a faraway state, and propelled tens of thousands of animal advocates to action, in order to replace the weak laws in Ohio, to forever protect companion animals and their owners, in memory of her own beloved Rottweiler, Nitro.

Oppose HB 198, “Special Prosecutors”

 

House Bill 198 – Opposition Testimony of

Matt Ditchey, Esq., Representative

Angels for Animals, Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio,  Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Nitro Foundation / Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., and Paws and the Law

June 16, 2015 – House Judiciary Committee

Good morning Chairman Butler and Members of the House Judiciary Committee.

My name is Matt Ditchey, Esq. and I currently live in Green Township, Ohio (Mahoning County). I am submitting written testimony on behalf of the following eight grassroots animal welfare organizations: Angels for Animals, Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Nitro Foundation/Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc. and Paws and the Law as opposed party for Ohio House Bill 198. 

Representing over 77,000 constituents across 81 Ohio counties, our eight Ohio-citizen driven, community based organizations are the driving force behind legislative efforts to address issues impacting the health and safety of companion animals as defined under Ohio Revised Code 959. Our supporters include a diverse section of voters and taxpayers from across the state, including but not limited to, a broad range of dog enthusiasts, veterinarians, breeders, animal care and welfare organizations, animal control representatives, appointed humane agents, judges, attorneys, and government employees who understand state and federal governance.

Given our coalition’s dedication to educate and support the law enforcement and judicial communities in the enforcement and administration of Ohio’s animal welfare laws, I want to begin my testimony by thanking Representative Hambley’s leadership in addressing criminal prosecution authority as a component within this important piece of legislation for Ohioans.

Our coalition strongly agrees that the first step in the successful criminal prosecution of crimes related to animal cruelty begins with the governance of Ohio Revised Code. However, our supporters have expressed concerns that HB 198 will weaken the current provisions under 2931.18 which allows a humane society or its agent to employ an attorney to prosecute violations of law relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals. Their greatest concerns include the following:

1. The proposed legislation repeals the statute authorizing a humane society or its agent to employ an attorney and to also employ one or more assistant attorneys to prosecute violations of law relating to prevention of cruelty to animals.

Recommendation: Retain the original language under 2931.18.  A unique aspect of prosecuting animal cruelty cases is that the evidence includes living creatures that require daily care.  We firmly believe having the ability to appoint a special prosecutor allows humane societies to work with an experienced specialist in animal statutes, case law and veterinary reporting. This specialist is able to prioritize animal cruelty and neglect cases and expeditiously establish custody of animals that cannot humanely be held in a cage while waiting for their day in our hard-working, but heavily burdened court system. 

2.  The proposed legislation seeks to move the oversight of special prosecutors employed by humane societies perceived to be without any accountability to either a county prosecutor or municipal law director.

Recommendation: Retain the original language under 2931.18 and consider alternative language which would appoint a probate judge to review all pre-prosecution agreements prior to execution by the courts.  (It is important to note the records involving all of a humane society’s resolved criminal cases are available to any Ohioan who requests them under the Ohio Sunshine Laws.) 

Our eight groups and their supporters firmly believe that changes to 2931.18 under House Bill 198 will remove an important tool for humane societies to successfully prosecute animal cruelty cases. Most importantly, we believe the proposed abolition of humane societies’ authority to employ an attorney could create scenarios for cases of egregious violations under 959.131(B) to fall by the wayside for already overworked elected and appointed prosecutors. This is of special concern given that a recent report released by the Animal Legal Defense Fund has shown Ohio has not yet evolved to placing a greater emphasis on animal welfare in the intervening decades when compared to other states in the Midwest.

It is our hope this Committee will reflect on the opinions expressed by our eight groups and their supporters in today’s testimony prior to recommending Ohio House Bill 198 for review and passage by the House Judiciary Committee.

As the representative for Angels for Animals, Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Nitro Foundation/Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc. and Paws and the Law, I greatly appreciate your time and consideration on this important piece of legislation for Ohioans, and I welcome any questions you may have.

Proponent testimony of Diane Less

                                             HOUSE BILL 187 – PROPONENT TESTIMONY OF

                                                           Diane Less, Representative

Angels for Animals, Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for  Herbie,Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Nitro Foundation / Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., and Paws and the Law

                                      May 27, 2015 – House Health and Aging Committee

Good morning, Chairman Gonzales and Members of the House Health and Aging Committee.  My name is Diane Less and I currently live in Green Township, Ohio (Mahoning County). I am here today speaking on behalf of the following eight grassroots animal welfare organizations:  Angels for Animals, Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Nitro Foundation/Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., and Paws and the Law, as a proponent for Ohio House Bill 187.

Representing over 67,000 constituents across 72 Ohio counties, our seven Ohio-citizen driven, community based organizations are the driving force behind legislative efforts to address issues impacting the health and safety of companion animals as defined under Ohio Revised Code 959.

Our supporters include a diverse section of voters and taxpayers from across the state, including but not limited to, a broad range of dog enthusiasts, veterinarians, breeders, animal care and welfare organizations, animal control representatives, appointed humane agents, judges, attorneys, and government employees who understand state and federal governance.

Given our coalition’s dedication to educate and support the law enforcement and judicial communities in the enforcement and administration of Ohio’s animal welfare laws, I want to begin my testimony by thanking Representative Ginter and Legislative Aide Alex Thomas for their leadership in sponsoring this important piece of legislation for Ohioans.

According to Animal Emergency Medical Training (AEMT), there is growing demand for theadministration of early and potentially life-saving interventions to injured companion and working animals in an emergency situation. This care is not meant to replace that provided by a licensed veterinarian; rather, it is meant to provide stabilization prior to and during transport to a licensed veterinarian.

Many of these EMTs and first responders have completed comprehensive training in small animal first aid, safety, veterinary triage, and basic veterinary cardiopulmonary life support. These highly trained professionals have been equipped with the knowledge, skills, tools, and hands-on experience necessary to recognize potential animal emergencies and provide initial treatment and stabilization.

As a coalition, we firmly believe the passage of HB 187 would provide clarification under Ohio Revised Code which would allow an EMT or first responder to safely provide early emergent and potentially life-saving intervention and stabilizing care to companion, service and K-9 unit animals in an emergency situation prior to that animal being further treated by a licensed veterinarian.  Most importantly, we believe the proposed language would successfully address two important considerations: (1) ensure EMTs and first responders do not administer drugs to injured companion and working animals without first consulting a veterinarian, and (2) ensure nothing changes about the process of a dispatcher handling a 911 call for incidents that do not require a first responder.

It is our hope this Committee will reflect on the opinions expressed by our seven groups and their supporters in today’s testimony prior to recommending Ohio House Bill 187 for review and passage by the House Health and Aging Committee.

As the representative for Angels for Animals, Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Nitro Foundation / Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., and Paws and the Law, I greatly appreciate your time and consideration on this important piece of legislation for Ohioans, and I welcome any questions you may have.

 

Proponent Testimony of Mike Smeck

                                                       HOUSE BILL 60

                 PROPONENT TESTIMONY OF Mike Smeck, Representative

Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Nitro Foundation/Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., Paws and the Law, Matt Ditchey, Esq. (Angels for Animals)  

                                                      May 26, 2015

                  House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee

Good morning Chairman Hill and Members of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. My name is Mike Smeck and I currently reside with my family in Amherst, Ohio (Lorain county). I am here today speaking on behalf of the following seven grassroots animal welfare organizations: Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Nitro Foundation/Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., Paws and the Law and Matt Ditchey, Esq. (Angels for Animals) as a proponent for Ohio House Bill 60 as introduced in the 131st Ohio General Assembly.

Representing over 67,000 constituents across 72 Ohio counties, our seven Ohio-citizen driven, community based organizations are the driving force behind legislative efforts to address issues impacting the health and safety of companion animals as defined under Ohio Revised Code 959. Our supporters include a diverse section of voters and taxpayers from across the state, including but not limited to, a broad range of dog enthusiasts, veterinarians, breeders, animal care and welfare organizations, animal control representatives, appointed humane agents, judges, attorneys, and government employees who understand state and federal governance.

Given our coalition’s dedication to educate and support the law enforcement and judicial communities in the enforcement and administration of Ohio’s animal welfare laws, I want to begin my testimony by thanking Representatives Patmon and Hall for their leadership in sponsoring this important piece of legislation for Ohioans.

Companion animal cruelty is viewed as a serious issue by law enforcement and mental health professionals, who recognize the strong link between companion animal abuse and human violence. While Ohio’s humane ranking has improved over the past four years with the passage of House Bill 14 in the 129th Ohio General Assembly and Nitro’s Law as an amendment to House Bill 59 in the 130th Ohio General Assembly, when we look closely at our cruelty statute it remains rather weak in comparison to other states across the country.

We also feel strongly that as we continue to make headway on the opiate issue, we will see new trends — and conversation is suggesting this is already happening — of people who harm companion animals in order to obtain a prescription for an opiate with no intent to provide that level of care to the companion animal, but instead use the narcotic personally or sell it for profit.

Given these concerns, our coalition firmly believes the passage of HB 60 as introduced would represent the emergence of a statewide consensus that egregious abuse against a companion animal should be treated as a serious crime. Although there is much more work left to be done, to enact a felony provision for companion animal cruelty beyond Nitro’s Law would mark a significant milestone in an undeniable trend favoring increased penalties for those who commit profound, intentional acts of serious physical injury against all companion animals, to include dogs regardless of where they may be kept.

It is our hope this Committee will reflect on the opinions expressed by our seven groups and their supporters in today’s testimony prior to recommending Ohio House Bill 60 as introduced for review and passage by the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. As the representative for Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio, Joseph’s Legacy, Justice for Herbie, Nitro Foundation/Nitro’s Ohio Army, Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Ohio Voters for Companion Animals, Inc., Paws and the Law and Matt Ditchey, Esq. (Angels for Animals), I greatly appreciate your time and consideration on this important piece of legislation for Ohioans, and I welcome any questions you may have.