Earlier this month we celebrated National Pet Day in the United States. But as every loving pet owner knows, our pets deserve to be celebrated every day.

Still, it’s timely that a bill to help companion animals was introduced in the Ohio Senate last week. The bill aims to revise the law and penalties associated with cruelty against companion animals and to prohibit using a gas chamber to destroy a domestic animal.

You might recall that Ohio passed Goddard’s Law in 2016. Named for the late and legendary TV meteorologist Dick Goddard, the law increased the punishment for people convicted of abusing animals, specifically companion animals. Besides his TV fame, Goddard was known for his compassion and work for animal rights. Violations of Goddard’s Law carry the possibility of a fine of up to $2,500 and six to 12 months in prison.

Senate Bill 164 calls for domestic animal caretakers, including pet owners, pet shops, animal shelters, rescue groups and boarding facilities to provide those animals with adequate food, water and shelter. Failure to do so would be a fifth-degree felony, carrying the same penalty as violations of Goddard’s Law.

Cruelty to companion animals, whether it causes injury or death would be prosecuted as a fourth-degree felony. That class of crime could bring a prison term of six to 18 months and a fine of as much as $5,000. Organizing or aiding in animal cruelty would be a fifth-degree felony. Ask any pet owner if they consider their pets part of the family and you’ll understand the support for enacting serious penalties for those who commit violence against innocent animals.

Using a gas chamber to end a companion animal’s life would be banned unless state medical officials declare there is a shortage of lethal injection substances. We would like to see an end to this horrific practice as soon as possible. A peaceful, painless death is the final gift we can give our animals.

One bright spot created by the pandemic was an increase in animal adoptions. With school and many jobs suddenly taking place from home last spring, people had time to acclimate pets to their new environments. Some shelters and rescue organizations actually ran out of adoptable animals — a rare occurrence — and transferred potential pets from out of state to meet the demand. People who already had pets gave and received extra comfort and companionship, particularly people who don’t live with other humans.

While SB 164 is in the early stages of the legislative process, we hope it will move quickly through the Ohio General Assembly and be signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine (also known as springer spaniel Dolly DeWine’s dad). The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate and we expect it will have it in the House as well.

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