Society

Cincinnati Law Targets Dangerous Dogs, Fines Can Reach $15,000

| by Phyllis M Daugherty
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The Cincinnati City Council unanimously approved a "vicious" and "dangerous" dog ordinance last week. The final ordinance omitted the breed-specific provision originally proposed by Mayor John Cranley and was diluted by the removal of criminal penalties approved by the Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee on March 2.

The final ordinance targets dogs by their behavior, not by their breed. It increases fines for dog attacks and requires owners of vicious dogs to get insurance.

"What we're trying to do is take all the dangerous and vicious dogs off the street," committee vice chair Kevin Flynn told WCPO.

The ordinance restricts what it calls "vicious" and "dangerous" dogs and defines a "vicious" dog as one that has killed or caused serious injury to a person. A "dangerous" dog is one that has caused injury to a person or killed another dog.

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Mayor John Cranley wanted owners to be required to buy a special collar for $50 that would identify their dog as a pit bull.

He told WLWT, "The weakening of the law was the failure of council to face facts, that pit bulls cause the vast majority of deaths to human beings and that there should be additional restrictions like the collar that I recommended.”

The public demand for stricter regulation of dogs was spurred by the savage attack on Zainabou Drame, who was mauled by two pit bulls outside her home in June 2014, when she was 6 years old. The attack was so severe that her jawbone had to be replaced and her tongue was torn out.

The following month a pit bull attack killed a 7-month-old baby boy in Dayton, Ohio. The pit bull in that case belonged to the baby’s step-grandmother, who was babysitting at the time.

The councilmembers decided that enforcement was a major consideration and that monetary penalties for a dog bite would provide the most effective motivation for increasing responsibility by owners of all breeds. Under the new law, the civil penalty can be as high as $15,000 for a second bite incident.

Defining a “nuisance” caused the roadblock in regard to criminal penalties. Vice Mayor David Mann explained, "You don't want to give somebody a criminal conviction for something that is not clear," WLWLT reports.

Although a dog owner cannot face criminal charges under the new city ordinance even if a dog bites twice or multiple times, such action can be taken under state law.

The new law allows police to cite owners civilly with fines of up to $5,000 the first time and up to $15,000 for repeat offenses, CBS reports.

Owners also can be fined if dogs run unattended, aren't kept on leashes or attempt to bite someone.

Provisions in the new ordinance, according to WPCO, include:

 --No one can own or harbor more than one vicious or dangerous dog;

-- Police can remove a dangerous or vicious dog that is not properly confined;

--All dogs are to be leashed or restrained by fence, supervision or secure enclosure;

--Civil penalties for owners who allow dogs off leash or menace or injure persons or domestic animals;

--Owners held liable for civil penalties to take a training course and spay or neuter the dog.

The plan also creates an animal task force to create and implement programs to deal with dog bite prevention, control and reporting, and other problems.

The new ordinance is effective immediately.

Sources: WLWT, WCPO, (2), CBS News / Photo: Provided, WikiCommons