COLUMBUS — This week, State Senator Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) joined State Representatives Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) and Jeff Rezabek (R-Clayton) to introduce legislation aimed at reforming Ohio’s laws on nuisance, dangerous and vicious dogs.
“Our legislation seeks to prevent attacks, like the one that claimed the life of Klonda Richey, from happening again,” said Beagle. “Support for this effort continues to grow—gaining momentum each time the issue is discussed. We owe it to the victims and those vulnerable to such attacks, to do all we can to hold owners of vicious dogs accountable and make our communities the safest possible places to live, work and raise our families.”
Beagle began drafting a bill in 2014 following a string of tragic incidents in the region and across Ohio involving attacks by vicious dogs. The bill language was drafted in consultation with a diverse group of subject matter experts.
During his most recent push for reforms, Beagle’s legislation was approved in the Ohio Senate but failed to progress through the committee process in the House before the bill expired at the end of the 131st General Assembly. With the new two-year legislative session now underway, the Ohio Constitution requires the bill to once again be taken up for consideration and approved by both legislative bodies before it can be signed into law by the governor.
With the introduction of separate companion bills in each legislative chamber this time, Senator Beagle and Dayton-area State Representatives Huffman and Rezabek are optimistic that the effort will receive the necessary support for passage.
“This legislation contains necessary, common sense reforms to appropriately address cases dealing with vicious dogs. I am glad to see it introduced again this General Assembly by Senator Beagle and I look forward to carrying the companion legislation in the House with the help of Representative Rezabek,” said Representative Huffman.
“Our legislation will be important in defending some of our most vulnerable constituents from dangerous dogs,” said Representative Rezabek. “I want to thank Senator Beagle for his work throughout the previous General Assemblies and look forward to seeing it pass through both chambers.”
Named after a Dayton woman who was tragically mauled by her neighbor’s dog in February 2014, the “Klonda Richey Act” seeks to prevent future attacks and to hold animal owners accountable. Before she was attacked outside her home in February 2014, Klonda Richey made more than a dozen phone calls to local authorities over several months regarding the threatening behaviors of her neighbor’s dogs and the lack of care the animals were receiving.
“The system failed Klonda Richey,” said Beagle. “We all agree that there are ways to improve the law and to hold owners of dangerous dogs accountable.”
Existing penalties do not correspond with the severity of offenses. Animal control experts describe the current law as “one free growl, one free bite.” Senator Beagle’s bill equips local authorities to address problem dogs and their owners without punishing those that are not a serious threat.
Provisions in the Klonda Richey Act include:
• Creating an overall penalty structure for nuisance, dangerous and vicious dogs including clear penalties for seriously injuring or killing a person or companion animal. Includes the permission for dogs to be humanely destroyed when they kill a person, companion animal or seriously injure a person.
• Extending the amount of time felons cannot own dogs from 3 to 5 years.
• Clarifying that dog wardens have arresting authority.
• Requiring an investigation or follow up on every call to a dog warden.
• Requiring owners to respond to warnings or postings on the dwelling about their dogs within a defined amount of time.
• Allowing witnesses to provide notarized affidavits (current codes do not allow a dog warden to cite owners unless they’re a witness to the incident.)
• Changing ‘provocation’ to an affirmative defense, instead of being an element of the offense.
• Creating a penalty for noncompliance on requirements for transferring a dangerous dog.
• Requiring each dog designated as “dangerous” be registered, with their information filed in a database that is updated annually.
Senate Bill 195 and House Bill 352 will both be referred to standing committees in their respective legislative chambers for further consideration.