Q: What is the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board?
A: In November 2009, Ohio voters amended Ohio’s constitution, creating a 13-member Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to establish standards governing the care and well-being of livestock and poultry in Ohio. In developing these standards, the new constitutional provisions and the enabling legislation required the board to consider agricultural “best management” practices, biosecurity, disease prevention, animal morbidity and mortality data, food safety practices and the protection of local, affordable food supplies for consumers. The board was also allowed to consider other factors when developing the standards, which were formally adopted earlier in 2011 and went into effect on Sept. 29, 2011.
Q: What do the standards provide?
A: The livestock standards establish specific guidelines for the care and treatment of livestock in Ohio. They address such issues as housing, transportation, feeding, handling and euthanasia. The term “livestock” includes all equine animals (such as horses and donkeys) regardless of the purpose for which they are raised, and also the following species if raised for food or fiber: bovine (beef, veal and dairy), hogs, poultry, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas. The standards do not apply to “exotic” animals or any other species not included on the list.
Q: Where do I find the complete set of standards?
A: You can find the complete text of the rules, along with explanatory materials, at the website of the Ohio Department of Agriculture: www.agri.ohio.gov.
Q: Who enforces the standards, and how does the enforcement process work?
A: The standards are enforced by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). The ODA receives and investigates complaints of alleged violations. If the investigation confirms that a violation has occurred, the ODA issues a written notice of the violation(s) to the responsible party, along with a description of any actions that may need to be taken to correct the problem. Depending on the circumstances, the ODA may also propose civil penalties as provided for in the rules. Civil penalties can only be imposed through an administrative hearing process, which requires a written notice of the proposed action, the opportunity for an evidentiary hearing before an independent hearing officer and the right to appeal any administrative order to the appropriate court of common pleas.
Q: What are the possible penalties for violating the standards?
A: A violation of the standards is considered a “major” violation if it results in any of the following: imminent peril to the life of the animal, protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of a limb or bodily organ. All other violations are considered to be “minor.” A major violation may result in a penalty of $1000 to $5000 for a first violation and $5000 to $10,000 for subsequent violations within 60 months. Minor violations may result in a civil penalty of up to $500 for a first violation and penalties of up to $1000 for subsequent violations within 60 months. Violators may also be assessed the cost of investigation and any necessary animal care.
Q: What happens if one violation affects many animals, such as a deficiency in a large housing system?
A: Violations affecting multiple animals may be treated as a single violation, depending on the circumstances.
Q: Aren’t these issues already covered by animal cruelty laws?
A: Mistreatment of livestock may constitute a violation of both the animal cruelty laws and the livestock care standards. However, the livestock care standards are separate from Ohio’s animal cruelty laws and are enforced independently. While the ODA enforces the livestock care standards, local law enforcement continues to be responsible for enforcing animal cruelty laws.
Q: Where do I go with questions or complaints?
A: You can direct your questions and complaints to the ODA’s Division of Animal Health at 8995 East Main Street, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068, (614) 728-6220. You also may find answers to your questions through the ODA’s website at www.agri.ohio.gov.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Assistant Attorney General James R. Patterson with the office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.