The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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March 3, 2014

Few licensed dogs labeled as dangerous despite law

An Ohio law designed to protect residents from the type of incidents that led to the mauling death of Klonda Richey of Dayton has identified only a tiny percentage of licensed dogs as dangerous or vicious, and is being enforced unevenly by area animal resource officials, an investigation by this newspaper found.

The newspaper examined hundreds of pages of public records, including documents from animal resource centers in six area counties: Montgomery, Warren, Butler, Greene, Miami and Clark. The examination of those records found few dogs are getting labeled as dangerous and there are huge disparities in how Ohio’s two-year-old law is being applied.

For example, Mont-gomery County, which re-gistered more than 60,000 dogs in 2013, has tagged just 12 dogs with designations of nuisance or dangerous since 2012. No dog was declared vicious during that time.

In Clark County, the number was zero, although one is pending. Officials there said they have had 10 to 15 cases where dogs were turned over by their owners and euthanized before they were designated.

Owners of dangerous and vicious dogs are required to meet certain criteria every year to obtain a tag and certificate, including paying an annual $50 fee.

Richey, 57, of 31 E. Bruce Avenue, died in the early morning hours of Feb. 7 from injuries suffered from a mauling by two mixed-mastiff dogs owned by her neighbors, Andrew Nason, 29, and Julie Custer, 25. In the two years before her death, Richey complained repeatedly about her neighbors and their dogs. She lived at the home with more than 20 cats, which seemed to be a source of contention with the neighbors.

Between Dec. 27, 2011, and Richey’s death, 13 complaints were filed with the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center and another 46 calls were made to the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center related to the Nason home at 35 E. Bruce.

Most of the Animal Resource Center calls were anonymous, but 23 of the calls to the dispatch center were from Richey or associated with Richey’s phone number. The majority of the calls were about the dogs at the Nason house, but other calls included complaints about juveniles, fireworks and other activity.

Richey also sought a civil stalking protection order against Nason, but ultimately was denied in April 2013.

Family members and friends have said that Richey lived in terror of the dogs attacking her cats. No one has been charged in Richey’s death, and the investigation is ongoing. Nason and Custer reportedly have moved out of the home. A fire at the house on Feb. 21 caused about $30,000 worth of damage and has been declared arson, according to fire officials.

Several local elected officials, including Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Butler, said this week that changes are needed to strengthen Ohio’s vicious dog law to better protect citizens.

Butler said he plans to introduce legislation to strengthen the state law and Whaley said city leaders sent a two-page letter to state legislators with recommendations for how the law should be changed.

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