Warden busy with new dog law

A new state law addressing dangerous and nuisance dogs is keeping the Auglaize County dog warden busy.

Dog Warden Russ Bailey said he has been “very, very busy” since the new law took effect May 22.

“We’ve made six notifications so far,” Bailey said during a regular monthly meeting this week with the Auglaize County commissioners. “One was for a nuisance dog, the others were for dangerous dogs.”

He said five bites came from pit bulls.

Under the new law, pit bulls no longer are automatically deemed vicious, but the law allows any type of breed to be labeled for bad behavior.

The law defines a “vicious” dog as one that has seriously injured or killed a person, and a “dangerous” dog as one that while unprovoked injured a person, killed another dog, or got loose three or more times.

A “nuisance” dog — the least severe designation of the three — has unprovoked approached a person in a menacing fashion while off its property.

Two nuisance complaints add up to a dog being labeled a dangerous dog, Bailey said.

“If someone reports a problem, basically, it’s an automatic nuisance complaint,” Bailey said. “That’s if the dog goes off the property and comes up to you in a menacing fashion without biting.”

The dog warden said the person filing the report has to be able to describe what happened and it has to meet menacing criteria, including hair standing up on their back and growling, but in most cases he will have to take their word for it.

“You have to look at the situation and the dog warden has discretion,” Bailey said.

The owners of dogs faced with the new labels have 10 days to make an appeal.

“They do have a chance, but they have to act fast,” Bailey said.

A dog’s owner could face criminal charges or find themselves in court fighting a designation that requires several stipulations, including, dangerous dogs needing to wear special more expensive tags, be confined by a fence, be spayed or neutered, and microchipped. Owners also must post signs that a dangerous dog lives at the property and if ordered by a judge maintain liability insurance coverage on their dog.

Bailey said it has been hard following up on those new requirements under the law as they are time consuming.

“It’s hard to follow-up on everything if you are busy with other calls,” Bailey said. “It’s not my law. I am not in favor of many things about it. It will take time to get used to.”

Dog wardens across the state have mixed feelings about the new law and they have said it adds a lot to their workloads as they struggle with how to proceed with cases.

Matt Granito, the president of the Ohio County Dog Wardens Association said the law finally gives wardens a chance to hold owners responsible when their dogs attack.

The city of Wapakoneta

The city of St. Marys maintains its own leash law and a separate ordinance pertaining to dangerous and vicious dogs. Under that ordinance, the owner of a dangerous or vicious dog, which within city limits includes pit bulls, must have it in a pen with a locked top if the animal is outside.

The owner also must maintain liability insurance on the animal and when off the owner’s property, the dog must be muzzled and on a leash. A violation of the ordinance is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor.

“St. Marys is actively enforcing that still,” Bailey said.