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Cincy Council has plan to crackdown on dangerous/vicious dogs

Cincinnati Council could vote Wednesday on an ordinance to crack down on people who do not control their vicious or dangerous dogs.

A compromise proposal will include higher fines for people who break the law and setup an animal task force to study the issues.  Earlier plans included criminal sanctions, including jail time, but those were removed.

The Law and Public Safety Committee also rejected a plan to require pitbull owners to register their dogs and have them wear special identification collars.

Clifton resident Libby Power told the committee it is time to change the conversation.

"We don't need to be able to identify pitbulls, that's not the problem," Power said.  "The problem is identifying dangerous dogs who pose public safety threats to us, and our neighbors and our children."

Other speakers were also against breed specific legislation saying it is ineffective and inhumane.

"We've been down this path, it does't work, it's ineffective," said resident Jim Tomaszewski.  "It might be politically expedient and it might function as a placebo; it might give us the illusion of public safety.  But at the end of the day, we've been here, we've done that and it's ineffective."

Mayor John Cranley said last week he wanted Council to focus on pitbulls. Cranley said he was concerned the legislation Council was discussing could lead to the over-criminalization of dog bites.

The discussion about dangerous dogs follows an attack last summer where two dogs severely injured a six-year-old child.

A city lawyer said the proposed ordinance Council will consider Wednesday does three things:

  • Impose civil fines on anyone who allows their dogs to be off leashes, or escape and allow them to be unattended.  The fines would apply even on a first offense.
  • Dogs would be categorized as nuisance, vicious and dangerous.  Their would be duties of care for each category and penalties for violating that duty of care.  People with vicious or dangerous dogs would be required to carry liability insurance.
  • The city will setup an animal task force to study dog and other animal issues in Cincinnati.

If the ordinance is adopted a simple violation will carry a $50 fine, but issues that result in serious injuries could carry penalties of anywhere from $200 to $15,000.
Any person charged under some sections of the new ordinance will be required to attend a training course which teaches responsible dog ownership; and the dog will have be spayed or neutered.

"Between what we're doing here at the city with increasing the civil penalties, and addressing the dangerous and vicious dogs through education and spaying and neutering," said Council Member Kevin Flynn.  "I think that this legislation, it's not the end, there will be situations that come up that will have to be addressed and that's why I'm really excited about the task force."

At one time Cincinnati banned pit bulls. But it was repealed a few years ago, and the police department struggled to enforce the ban.  Part of the issue was the difficulty identfying dogs as pit bulls.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.