Ohio bill would crack down on dangerous dog owners

Ohio bill would crack down on dangerous dog owners
Published: Feb. 11, 2015 at 2:46 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 11, 2015 at 3:08 AM EST
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - All dog owners in Ohio may face harsh penalties if their four-legged friend doesn't behave.

It's part of a new bill in the Buckeye State that's targeting dangerous dog owners.

"What we're trying to do eliminate this idea that the first bite is free," said Ohio Senator Bill Beagle. "We're trying to empower our local law enforcement with an ability to charge somebody if the dog causes serious injury or fatality," said Beagle.

Beasley said Ohio law states that during a first time dog bite, often times the owner is cited for failure to control an animal. But it takes a third bite to really crack down on irresponsible owners.

This legislation would hold the owner accountable. After a first bite, the owner could face a 1st degree misdemeanor or a 5th degree felony.

"It is the owners responsibility to make sure that the dog does not create a danger for the community," said Katy Blanton.

Blanton has been instrumental in pushing for fair laws for all dogs as a leader of the Cincinnati Pit Crew. Some Tri-State communities have a pit bull ban based on the fact that some believe they're vicious. But Blanton says it's refreshing to see this bill doesn't discriminate.

"It's nice to see that lawmakers are recognizing that any dog can bite and proposing legislation that would protect people from any kind of dog bite, not just one particular breed," said Blanton.

Blanton says this first bite policy is a double-edged sword. She believes basing the penalty on the injury is something to consider.

"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," said Blanton.

Beagle agreed there has to be some sort of subjectivity. It could depend on whether the victim wants to press charges. He stressed they're not trying to penalize the responsible dog owner.

"We're not trying to cast a big net and criminalize the routine things about having a dog or being around a dog," said Beagle.

Beagle said the legislation could ban convicted child abusers from owning a dog, give more power to county dog wardens and increase the amount of time before a felon can own a dog

The first part of this legislation could be introduced as early as the end of this month.

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