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The Ohio legislature has passed Senate Bill 14, which changes the regulations regarding vicious dogs and the results have left local dog wardens scrambling to understand what the new restrictions mean.
Hardin County Dog Warden Tammy Ervin said the state wanted to make vicious dog regulations universal throughout the state, but the oppose has been the results. In response to pit bulls being removed from the vicious dog classification in Ohio, some municipalities, including Kenton, are looking to stiffen their own dog ordinances.
“The legislature was trying to make one law that would cover all 88 counties, but it didn’t help,” said Ervin.
Ervin and her deputy officers will have no authority to enforce the Kenton regulations, or those of any municipality in the county, she said. That job in Kenton would fall back on the Kenton Police Department.
“We don’t enforce city ordinances,” she said. “If the city requires a certain dog to have a muzzle and we see one not muzzled, we have no choice but to step aside and call the police.”
Once the local officers have taken the dog into custody, they will need to bring it to the dog shelter.
“We may have to come up with an agreement for that, too,” said Ervin.
Currently Kenton does not pay the county for taking care of dogs brought to the shelter by the police, she said.
But the changes taking place at the state level will be enforceable after May 22. Until then, said Ervin, she is attending sessions at the state level where the new laws are being analyzed and shared with the local enforcers.
Ervin said she has a lot of homework to do over the next month.
The new Ohio law creates three types of offending dogs. A nuisance dog means the animal “without provocation and while off the premises of its owner, keeper or harborer has chased or approached a person in either a ‘menacing fashion’ or an apparent attitude of attack or has attempted to bite or otherwise endanger any person.”
A dangerous dog is described as one who “without provocation, has caused injury, other than killing or serious injury to any person; has killed another dog or has been the subject of a third violation of (the confinement of dogs regulations).”
A vicious dog has killed or caused serious injury to a person.
The owner of a dangerous dog must notify the dog warden immediately if the dog is running loose, bites a person (unless the dog is on the owner’s property and the person bitten is unlawfully trespassing or committing a criminal act within the boundaries of that property) or the dog attacks another animal while the dog is off the owner’s property. The owner must also notify the county auditor of the sale transfer or death of the dog.
The owner of a dangerous dog must also register the animal with the county auditor and purchase a registration certificate. An identifying tag is to be affixed to the dog’s collar, which must be on the animal at all times.
A person convicted or who has pleaded guilty to a felon offense of violence or an offense relating to domestic animals, conspiracy, attempt and complicity, weapons control, corrupt activity or a drug offense can not posses a dog which is not spayed or neutered if it is older than 12 weeks. The animal belonging to a felon so described must also have a microchip for permanent identification attached to the dog.
“These changes will affect the courts more than they affect us,” said Ervin. “But we have a lot to do and only a month to do it.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer