SEBRING, Ohio - The court appearance for a kennel operator charged with animal cruelty prompted a demonstration by supporters of harsher penalties for animal abuse and neglect.
Outside county court in Sebring, sign-carrying demonstrators promote passage of what is being called Nitro's Law. Named after a dog that died from neglect at another kennel in 2008, the law would give prosecutors the right to charge animal abusers with a felony.
"Not every case of animal abuse is a felony case but it should be a deterent to get people to take care of their animals," said Brenda Irwin, who took part in the demonstration.
The demonstrators were in Sebring for the count appearance of Heather Culver, who is facing 28 counts of animal cruelty after humane agents found more than 20 dogs in what they described as deplorable conditions at her kennel in Berlin Center.
They said the animals were filthy and underfed.
Culver entered not guilty pleas to all charges. But Judge Diane Vettori said until her case is decided, Culver is out of the kennel business.
The judge also granted the prosecutor request for unannounced inspections of Culver's property to ensure she is in compliance with the courts order.
The county dog warden says he has seen so many of these types of cases that he supports increasing the criminal penalties.
"People think, oh it's a misdeameanor, the most they can get is six months in jail, when you get in that felony range now you can go to the pen, I'm happy," said Warden Dave Nelson.
The dogs in this case were taken in by Animal Charity Humane Society and most are now in foster care pending the outcome of the case.