Local lawmaker wants tougher laws for vicious dogs and their owners

5 years after death of Klonda Richey of Dayton, bill coming back to legislature.

Five years after the fatal mauling of Dayton resident Klonda Richey, another Miami Valley lawmaker will try to convince the Ohio General Assembly to pass a tougher law governing vicious dogs and their owners.

State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, however, will name his bill after 8-year-old Savannah Coleman, a Miami Twp. girl who was attacked in July by a neighbor’s 60-pound pit bull.

Related: Another shot at vicious dog reform unlikely to pass before year’s end

Savannah suffered from a skull fracture, nine lacerations to her scalp, three lacerations to her right ear, and two lacerations and a puncture wound to her right hand. She required hundreds of stitches, a blood transfusion and five nights in the hospital, her mother said.

“We don’t want this to seem like this has happened once,” Antani said. All too often, Ohioans are victims of vicious dog attacks. “This is not just a Klonda Richey issue, which was tragic. This is a widespread issue.”

Richey was fatally attacked by her neighbor’s mixed breed mastiffs on Feb. 7, 2014. Richey, 57, had called local authorities dozens of times to report concerns about the dogs in the two years leading up to her death. The dogs’ owners were charged with a misdemeanor for failure to control their animals.

Another fatal mauling occurred in April 2017 in Dayton when Maurice Brown was attacked by a pit bull that had been the source of previous complaints and at least one dog bite.

Bills named after Richey failed to gain traction in three previous legislative sessions: one died in committee in 2014, another failed to win final approval in 2016, and a third bill failed in 2018. Antani will be the fifth area lawmaker to take on the issue.

Related: Ohio emerges as model on exotic animal rules after Zanesville

Related: Animal shelter shows dramatic drop in euthanasia rate

Antani, who will introduce his bill on Wednesday at the Statehouse, will model his bill after previous legislation carried by former state lawmaker Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City.

The legislation will call for:

  • Requiring investigation or follow up on every call to a dog warden;
  • Requiring owners to respond to warnings or postings at their home about their dogs;
  • Allowing witnesses to give sworn statements regarding dog attacks on people.
  • Increasing penalties for when dogs seriously injure or kill a person or kill a companion animal; and
  • Defining dangerous, vicious and nuisance dog categories.

Data collected by the Ohio Department of Health show there were 64,735 dog bites reported across the state to local health departments between 2013 and 2017.

Antani as well as Savannah and her mother are scheduled to appear at a press conference Wednesday at the Ohio Statehouse to provide more details on the bill.

About the Author