Ohio to consider tougher penalties on owners of violent dogs, require euthanasia for dogs that kill or cause injury

Dog attacks too common in Ohio: “It’s insanity and you can’t imagine why this goes on.”

As a pediatric neurosurgeon at Dayton Children’s Hospital, Dr. Robert Lober sees the horrors of dog maulings all too often.

“We see very severe injuries. In some cases they are lethal. Other cases result in life changing complications. So, we are talking about facial paralysis in some kids, horrible disfigurement, paralysis of limbs, the need for amputations,” Lober said at a Statehouse press conference Wednesday. “In some cases the psychological effects last long after the scars have healed.”

In a single year, Dayton Children’s treats about 300 children for dog attacks, 40 of whom require hospital admission and surgery, he said. “It’s insanity and you can’t imagine why this goes on.”

Lober is supporting a new bill sponsored by state Reps. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, and Glenn Holmes, D-Girard, to hold owners of vicious dogs accountable when they injure or kill people.

It’s not just kids getting attacked. 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.

Data is not available on the number of fatalities or serious injuries. But Antani said that just when it comes to dog attacks on kids, it’s reasonable to assume that each of Ohio’s five children’s hospitals are seeing similar volume of cases as in Dayton.

“The argument that I want to present to the Legislature and the public is that this is not a one-off, isolated incident. This happens often all across Ohio to adults and children, with varying degrees of injury or death,” Antani said.

Antani will be the fifth local lawmaker to try to tighten up Ohio’s dog laws in the past five years. He said his bill picks up where former state senator Bill Beagle left off in the effort last year.

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Antani’s bill calls for:

— Making it a fifth degree felony for an owner when a dog seriously injures or kills a person, up from the current minor misdemeanor;

— Clarifying that dog wardens have the authority to make arrests;

— Giving dog wardens the authority to designate a dog as dangerous;

— Mandating additional training for dog wardens; and

— Requiring euthanasia of a dog that kills or causes serious injury to a person.

Dog owners facing charges due to their animal’s behavior could use a defense that the dog was teased, defending someone, responding to its own pain or responding to a person trespassing or committing a crime on the owner’s property.

Also at the press conference was Tierney Dumont, a high school friend of Antani’s. In July, Dumont’s 8-year-old daughter Savannah Coleman was attacked by a neighbor’s dog.

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Suffering from lacerations and a fractured skull, Savannah spent four hours in surgery with Lober and his team and five nights in the hospital, Dumont said. She is still seeing a counselor weekly to deal with the psychological trauma, Dumont said.

The bill, which Antani named after Savannah, will be formally introduced in the Ohio House at the first opportunity, Antani said.

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