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Ohio lawmakers look to improve vicious dog law

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio lawmakers are planning to introduce bipartisan legislation aimed at strengthening the state's vicious dog law, following the mauling death of a Dayton woman by two dogs in front of her home.

Sen. Bill Beagle, a Tipp City Republican, and Rep. Roland Winburn, a Dayton Democrat, recently convened a group of county dog wardens, prosecutors, law enforcement officials and legislators to talk about how to improve the state's current vicious dog law, signed by Gov. John Kasich two years ago.

They discussed harsher penalties, how to target problem dog owners and whether to set standards for posted warnings about dangerous dogs at homes, among other topics, according to the Dayton Daily News.

"We got a lot of ideas about ways we could strengthen communication, clear up the penalties and strengthen the code," Beagle said.

The action comes two months after the mauling death of Klonda Richey, 57, whose body was found outside her Dayton home on Feb. 7 several hours after she had been killed by two mixed mastiff dogs. Her neighbors, Andrew Nason, 29, and Julie Custer, 26, owned the dogs.

It is believed to be the third fatal dog attack in Montgomery County in 17 months.

Before the mauling, two area agencies fielded about 60 calls and complaints related to Nason's home between the end of 2011 and Feb. 7, records show.

The Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office said the case would be presented to a grand jury.

Beagle said he was surprised to learn of the course of events in the Richey case and decided with Winburn and state Rep. Jim Butler, an Oakwood Republican, to take a look at Ohio's vicious dog law.

"There's been a lot of interest in the case," Beagle said. "We want to make sure these things don't happen again."

Sandusky County dog warden John Glass in northern Ohio said one problem with the law is that it requires dog owners to post signs if their pet is dangerous, but doesn't set any standards. That means people can simply post a sign that says, "Beware of dog," Glass said.

He also said he thinks the law should have harsher penalties.

Beagle said it likely will take time to make significant changes to the law, but plans more meetings for discussing how to improve it.

The law requires owners to follow numerous rules for dogs labeled dangerous for actions such as nipping at someone's heels. The dogs have to wear special tags, be confined by fences and be spayed or neutered, among other things. A judge can order owners to maintain liability insurance for the animals.

Most violations of the law are misdemeanors. Owners with a dog that has been deemed vicious face felony convictions if the animal kills or seriously injures a person.

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