July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

County auditor seeing red over color-coded licenses

One of the non-budgetary amendments added last month to House Bill 59 — Ohio’s new budget — is drawing fire from Medina County Auditor Michael Kovack.

While the auditor’s primary job is to be the county’s bookkeeper and property appraiser, the auditor also issues permits and licenses, including dog licenses.

Michael Kovack

Until now, dog licenses were renewed yearly. But the new budget bill, signed into law by Gov. John Kasich on June 30, requires the state’s 88 auditors to offer three-year and permanent licenses as well.

Kovack said the change will cost his office time and money it doesn’t need to spend.

“I love solutions to problems that don’t exist,” he said. “It’s a major irritant for auditors across the state, just the type of thing we need to be focusing our energies on.”

Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, introduced the change at constituents’ requests simply to solve an annoying problem, his spokesman said.

But Kovack, who has been auditor for 20 years, said he’s never had a request for extended-period dog licenses and said he is not aware of any other auditor in the state who has either.

He said the new licenses will require his office to set up extra databases to track each kind of license, including individual databases for three-year licenses in each year of their status.

Additionally, licenses will be color coded by classification and year, similar to the stickers on vehicle license plates.

“We have new colors every year but now, over a two-year period we could have four to five different color tags out there,” Kovack said.

Changes will have to be in place no later than Dec. 1. As of June 30, all software needs to be changed, and notifications sent to all registered dog owners in county.

There are roughly 24,000 dog owners in Medina County, Kovack said.

The licenses will cost $2 for each year for the one- and three-year licenses and the permanent license will cost $20 and will be valid for the duration of a dog’s life.

In May 2012, the “dangerous dog” registration went into effect, another problem Kovack said the county doesn’t have. He said no dangerous dogs have been registered.

The budget also allows for county sheriffs to become qualified as dog wardens.

County commissioners can appoint sheriffs to enforce animal control laws for a period of two years. The sheriff cannot appoint peace officers as dog wardens, meaning current wardens and their benefits can be transferred to the Sheriff’s Department.

Additionally, House Bill 59 included passage of the major provisions of the bill known as Nitro’s law. That law was introduced in 2009 after an October 2008 case in which a dog-training and boarding facility, “High Caliber K9” in Youngstown, was raided.

Owner Steve Croley was arrested, charged and convicted on four misdemeanor infractions for starving 19 dogs, eight of which died, including a Rottweiler named Nitro. His family petitioned for the law championed by state Rep. Ron Gerberry, D-Austintown.

Nitro’s law is the first in the state to allow for first-offense felony charges in cases of institutional animal abuse at kennels and boarding houses.

Prosecutors will have the option to charge kennel owners and their employees with a felony in extreme abuse cases and a high-level misdemeanor in serious neglect cases.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.