Ohio Senator Proposes Tougher Laws To Hold Dog Owners Responsible For Dog Attacks

| by Phyllis M Daugherty
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A state senator from southwest Ohio announced he is renewing his effort to pass tougher legislation on vicious dogs, one year after the mauling death of a Dayton woman.

Sen. Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) told the Dayton Daily News he plans to start with a foundation of basic provisions such as increasing fines and penalties, clarifying definitions, and extending the length of time before a felon can own a dog.

Potential proposals also include creating a dangerous dog database for law enforcement, giving dog wardens more access to law enforcement systems, and requiring signage, he explained.

This is the second year that passage of a more responsible approach to pet ownership has been attempted. Beagle praised the fact that supporters have been patient and willing to wait until the changes could be made from a perspective of cutting down on dog bites and serious attacks. 

“There's something to be said about taking their time and trying to get it right … But everyone agrees there's a problem," Sen. Beagle stated. "We shouldn't be having these fatalities."

One of the fatalities to which he referred was the tragic death of Klonda Richey, 57, who was killed in February 2014 by two male mixed-Mastiffs. An investigation revealed that there had been nine complaints of the dogs being at large, the Dayton Daily News reports.

At the time of Klonda Richey’s death, the headline in the Dayton Daily News read, "Two arrested in third dog attack fatality in 17 months."

Even though an innocent life was taken, the Mastiff’s owners, Andrew Nason and Julie Custer, only face misdemeanor charges for failing to control their dogs, and both are out on bond, the Newark Advocate reported.

The issue, stated the attorney for the defendants, was not whether it was a tragedy. Rather, the legal issues and the potential for extended litigation lies in whether his clients—the dog owners—are criminally responsible.


One of the main goals of the new law is to try to eliminate the one-free bite allowance.

"We're trying to empower our local law enforcement with an ability to charge somebody if the dog causes serious injury or fatality," Sen. Beagle told Fox19.

Ohio law has followed the traditional approach that, after the occurrence of a first-time dog bite, an owner should just be given a warning in the form of a citation for failure to control the dog. It was not until the third bite that there was a penalty for irresponsible disregard by a pet owner, including a possible threat of criminal charges. 

The proposed legislation is designed to hold the owner of any breed of dog fully accountable. At the first bite, the owner could face a first degree misdemeanor or a fifth degree felony.

"It is the owner's responsibility to make sure that the dog does not create a danger for the community," Katy Blanton, leader of the Cincinnati Pit Crew told Fox19. She also praised the fact that the proposed bill does not discriminate by breed.

Blanton is hoping that officers can apply their personal assessment of a situation and make a fair and valid determination of the severity and intent of a first-time attack.

"It does protect people, but if it's an accident there should be some ways for law enforcement or a judge to be able to make that determination," Blanton said.

Beagle stressed this is not an effort to punish or penalize a responsible owner. He said that the extent of injury and whether the victim wanted to press charges would be determining factors.

The proposed new law could also possibly ban convicted child abusers from owning a dog, enhance the power of county dog wardens, and increase the amount of time before a felon can own a dog, Fox19 reports.

The first part of this legislation may be introduced at the end of this month.

Sources: Newark Advocate, Fox 19, Dayton Daily News

Photo Credit: WikiCommons, Brett Hoffland/Fox19