Strug­gle to change vi­cious-dog laws

Af­ter fail­ures, area law­mak­ers present ‘com­pan­ion’ bills.

Dayton Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Laura A. Bischoff

Re­form­ing Ohio’s COLUM­BUS — vi­cious-dog laws has been an up­hill climb for a group of lo­cal law­mak­ers who well re­mem­ber vic­tims like Klonda Richey, who was mauled to death in Fe­bru­ary 2014, or 7-month-old Jonathon Quar­les Jr., killed in a dog at­tack just a few months later, or Mal­coln Brown, who died when a pit bull at­tacked him in a Day­ton al­ley in April 2017.

These at­tacks — and many oth­ers through­out the state — in­volved dogs with a his­tory of ag­gres­sion. Yet area law­mak­ers — state Sen.

Bill Bea­gle, R-Tipp City, in par­tic­u­lar — have strug­gled to get leg­is­la­tion through the Gen­eral As­sem­bly that would toughen Ohio’s dog laws.

Klonda Richey bills failed to gain trac­tion in two pre­vi­ous leg­isla­tive ses­sions: one died in com­mit­tee in 2014 and Bea­gle’s bill in­tro­duced in April 2015 was voted out of the Se­nate in De­cem­ber 2016 with­out enough time to go through the House.

Bea­gle and two lo­cal House mem­bers — state Reps. Jeff Rez­abek, R-Clay­ton, and Steve Huff­man, R-Tipp City — are at it again in the cur­rent leg­isla­tive ses­sion, and this time they are tak­ing a dou­ble-bar­rel ap­proach with bills spon­sored in both the House and Se­nate.

Hav­ing “com­pan­ion” bills in both cham­bers of­ten in­creases the chances that leg­is­la­tion will pass.

Like the pre­vi­ous leg­is­la­tion, these bills are both named af­ter Richey, whose Feb. 7, 2014, at­tack by her neigh­bor’s mixed-breed mas­tiffs shocked the com­mu­nity.

The 57-year-old Richey had called lo­cal au­thor­i­ties dozens of times to re­port con­cerns about the dogs in the two years lead­ing up to her death, which led to out­cry over the lim­i­ta­tions in Ohio’s dog laws.

The bills call for re­quir­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion of ev­ery com­plaint call made to dog war­dens, man­dat­ing that dog own­ers re­spond to warn­ings and post­ings from dog war­dens, al­low­ing wit­nesses to give sworn state­ments re­gard­ing prob­lem dogs, in­creas­ing penal­ties for own­ers who fail to con­trol their vi­cious dogs, re­quir­ing an­nual reg­is­tra­tion of dan­ger­ous dogs, ex­tend­ing a ban on dog own­er­ship by vi­o­lent felons or child abusers to five years and giv­ing lo­cal au­thor­i­ties more dis­cre­tion in re­spond­ing to dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions.

Rez­abek said if a dog is pro­voked to at­tack, the pro­posed law says the owner must prove it. Cur­rently, the law re­quires that pros­e­cu­tors show there was no provo­ca­tion in the at­tack.

“We have got to tell own­ers — what­ever breed you have — if you have a dog that’s bit­ing, you can’t take that lightly,” said Rez­abek. “We want a good law that will pro­tect the com­mu­nity.” Con­tact this re­porter at 614224-1624 or email Laura. Bischoff@cox­inc.com.

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