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Council approves tougher dangerous/vicious dog law

After months of debate, Cincinnati Council gave final approval Wednesday to a compromise ordinance targeting people who let their dangerous or vicious dogs run loose in the city.  The proposal includes tougher fines for owners, but it does not have any criminal sanctions such as jail time.

Council has been debating the city's dog laws after a six-year-old girl was severely injured in a dog attack last summer.

 Council Member Kevin Flynn said the goal is to correct the bad behavior of the owner.

"There's no more free bite," Flynn said.  "If you have a dog that bites and seriously harms someone, you're subject that very first time to a $5000 penalty.  If you allow it to happen a second time you're subject to a $15,000 penalty."

The only criminal penalty in the law is for dog fighting.  

Council Member Christopher Smitherman said the goal is to transfer responsibility to the owners and away from the dogs.

"The owners are responsible," Smitherman said.  "Whether it's the training that's part of the ordinance, whether it's the spayed and neutering part of the ordinance, whether it's the accountability of the very high fees (fines) that you must pay if you're irresponsible."

Smitherman also said he is anxious for the animal task force included in the new legislation to get to work.  

Council Member Wendell Young also praised that part of the law.

"We're never going to be able to prevent what we're all trying to prevent and that is bad people getting a hold of dogs and turning them into bad animals," Young said.  "Doesn't mean we shouldn't try, and I think that what we have here in front of us today is a good attempt to accomplish that."

Much of Council’s final debate Wednesday centered on breed specific legislation, especially focused on pitbulls.  A Council committee had rejected a proposal earlier this week for those dogs to be registered with the city and wear special collars.

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.