Ohio’s rule-review body — the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review — will hold a hearing to review the documents and public comments presented during a public hearing held on Dec. 9 at the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Comments were submitted by Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Humane Society of the United States and Ohio Veterinary Medical Association.
OFBF said it was concerned over some blurring by the board, of the differences in establishing standards for livestock care and assessing civil penalties, versus the authority of county officials.
It also criticized the board for its “major-minor” classification of violations, instead calling for a “clear and straightforward penalty structure.”
The major-minor classification includes “vague and undefined language,” OFBF says, and includes issues of “intent” to mistreat animals, which it says “not only begs a challenge to the rules for exceeding the OLCSB’s statutory authority … but also weakens the rules by blurring the lines between civil livestock care standards and criminal cruelty laws.”
HSUS also cited issues with the major-minor classification, calling for more distinction of major offenses, and offenses per animal.
“Otherwise, the board will provide no more deterrent for major violations than for those deemed minor,” and will thus negate the significance of classifying some offenses as minor, and others as major,” it says.
HSUS says its most significant concern is that it allows a violation affecting more than one animal to be considered a single offense.
“Civil penalties should be applied to each act of abuse or neglect, and if these abuses affect more than one animal, they should be punishable as separate offenses.”
The organizations providing testimony continue to spar over use of the word “humane” and whether it can safely be included in OLCSB language.
In the comments, the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association says it understands why the board is concerned with how it uses the term, but still believes “the use of the word ‘humane’ in the proposed rules … is wholly appropriate, necessary and consistent with valid legal interpretation.
The OFBF says the General Assembly debated and rejected use of “humane,” preferring instead, the words “care” and “well being.”
The organization said while Ohioans strive for “humane” treatment of livestock, “to codify such a nebulous requirement would be problematic.”
The JCARR hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m., in the Senate Finance Hearing Room (room 126) of the Senate Office Building at the statehouse.