After high-profile vicious dog attacks, WLWT News 5 investigated how often dog owners were charged.
One dog-attack victim was still at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital recovering six weeks after being mauled by her neighbor’s dogs.
Zainabou Drame, 6, was viciously mauled in Westwood June 4. Doctors placed her in a coma and had to remove her tongue.
“She’s up walking around and toileting on her own. She still needs some assistance; we’re working on balance right now,” Zainabou’s aunt Gina Tyus said. “She’s getting better.”
Her family said they wonder if stronger consequences for pet owners would help keep other children safe.
“If you or something that you own causes major damage or takes a life, you should be held responsible. Whether it’s a dog, a gun, whatever it is. If it’s yours, you’re responsible for it and we need to take ownership of that and it looks like we need the law to help us with it,” Tyus said.
The Cincinnati law director said the current law makes it hard to strictly penalize an owner because, in order to prosecute someone under the vicious dog ordinance, there has to be proof that the dog has already attacked someone else.
“It shouldn’t matter if it bit somebody before. One time is enough,” Tyus said.
A vicious dog conviction, prosecutors say, can land an owner six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The lesser option is to charge an owner with failure to confine his or her dog, but in that case, a conviction comes with a $150 ticket.
Prosecutors said there was only one vicious dog case in Cincinnati within the last year, but it got dismissed for lack of proof.
There were 47 tickets issued for failure to confine a dog.
“The laws could be much stronger, unfortunately they’re not,” SPCA of Cincinnati Director of Operations Mike Retzlaff said.
In Zainabou’s case, the dogs’ owners have not yet been charged with the attack. Prosecutors said they were waiting to see if they were convicted of drug and gun charges first. They also want to see how Zainabou recovers.