Lawmaker to introduce dog law reform

Bill comes more than a year after Dayton woman was mauled to death.

Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, has scheduled a press conference for Monday afternoon at Sinclair Community College to announce the legislation.

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Beagle said the legislation will reform Ohio law related to “nuisance, dangerous and vicious dogs.” The bill would change penalties and enhance the ability of local authorities to go after problem pet owners, according to Beagle.

Nothing in the bill refers to specific breeds or attempts to designate them as dangerous, Beagle said.

“These ideas are coming from law enforcement, from the animal control folks, from prosecutors,” he said. “We’re amassing suggestions from folks who deal with these issues on a daily or weekly basis, and we’re incorporating them into state law.”

The people who work with animal control or enforcement aren’t pushing for legislation that pinpoints individual breeds, such as was contained in a previous state law about pit bulls, said Beagle. He added: “Those people are the first to tell you that any dog can bite.”

Beagle plans to name the bill after Klonda Richey, the Dayton woman mauled to death last February by two cane corso mastiffs.

The family hasn’t read the final version of bill, which arrived on Beagle’s desk Wednesday, but he said he has discussed the bill “in summary form” with the family and they are supportive.

“Certainly, they want to make sure there isn’t another Klonda Richey in Ohio’s future,” he said.

Richey, 57, was attacked in the driveway of her home at 31 E. Bruce Ave. in the early morning hours of Feb. 7, 2014. Her body lay outside in sub-freezing temperatures until a passerby reported seeing a naked body in the snow around 8:15 a.m. When police responded, the dogs charged them and were shot and killed.

In September, a Montgomery County grand jury declined to indict the owners, Andrew Nason and Julie Custer, on felony charges related to Richey’s death, but within 24 hours they were arrested and each charged with two misdemeanor counts of failure to control dogs.

Earlier this month, Nason, 30, and Custer,27, pleaded no contest. Dayton Municipal Court Judge Carl Henderson then found them guilty on two counts each of failure to control dogs.

The dogs were registered to Custer, who lived at 35 E. Bruce Ave. along with the homeowner, Nason.

Nason and Custer are expected to be sentenced next month following the completion of pre-sentencing investigations. Both face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine on each count. They remain out of jail on bond.

Jonathon Brazelton, vice president of the Redcrest Neighborhood where Richey lived, said any bill should “put some teeth” into the laws and hold dog owners responsible for their pets.

“Owners should be held responsible for dogs that get loose and kill someone,” Brazelton said. “I think that should be a manslaughter charge.”

Stephanie Cook, chief prosecutor for the city of Dayton, said she has not read all of the bill but thinks it is a good first step.

Perhaps the most important change, Cook said, is that prosecutors won’t have to prove that a victim did not provoke the dog. Instead, the owner would have to prove the dog was teased, just like a self-defense claim.

“That is a good thing,” Cook said. “And that will be a positive change if this bill passes.”

Cook said the penalties in the Klonda Richey case should be felonies.

“We don’t see those types of cases and those types of injuries in municipal court,” Cook said. “And six months seems to be a wholly inadequate penalty for a case like that.

“In the Klonda Richey case, that is the absolute maximum, six months, for probably one of the horrific deaths I’ve ever heard or seen about.”

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