Struggle to change vicious-dog laws
After failures, area lawmakers present ‘companion’ bills.
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.