A little girl spent four days in the hospital after a brutal dog attack outside her babysitter’s house. Elmwood Police said a neighbor's dog broke free from its constraints and tore into 3-year-old Elena Durham.
Yet that dog, despite terrifying neighbors who witnessed the attack, was returned to its owners.
Why don’t owners have to give up dangerous dogs when the animals attack? One attorney blames a messy state law.
In 2012, Governor John Kasich signed legislation ending Ohio's 25-year-old law that declared pit bulls “vicious.”
"Instead of simplifying it, it actually made it more complicated," Attorney Mike Allen said of the 2012 legislation change. Allen said the state’s law is nebulously and ineffectively worded, making it tough to prosecute.
SPCA officers enforce the state law and hand out citations to dog owners. After that, the case goes to a judge and it’s ultimately their decision, Allen said.
The vague state law isn’t the only reason dangerous dogs get back out in communities.
Some communities still uphold their own breed-specific rules – and those rules vary depending on where you live.
For example, the local ordinance in the city of Carlisle declares pit bulls as "dangerous.” In Cheviot, Pit Bulls have been declared "vicious,” while the cities of Fairfield and Norwood ban owning Pit Bulls.
In the case of 3-year-old Elena Durham, Elmwood does not have its own Pit Bull ordinance and a grand jury ruled it OK to return the pit bull to its owners.
"We've had cases where it's gone both ways, the dog's been given back to owners, or we've been ordered to put the dog down," said said SPCA Chief Operating Officer Mike Retzlaff.
70 percent of the dogs being held at the SPCA's Northside shelter are either pit bulls or a pit bull mix, abandoned by their owners or seized after an attack.
Montgomery County leads the State this year as of April, with 245 reported dog bites so far. About 60 of those of bites involved pit bulls, more than any other breed identified in the report.
"The most irresponsible people own the most dangerous dogs," said Allen, who also pointed out that there are plenty of responsible owners who love their Pit Bulls and have trained them properly.
American Veterinary Medical Association points out that owners of pit bull-type dogs deal with a strong breed stigma. The association claims studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous.
“Pit Bull” is an ambiguous name for a breed, the association says. Generally, “pit bulls” are a type of dog that can encompass a range of pedigrees.
Brian Fisch says he was attacked by two dogs who are now in the custody of the SPCA.
"I could feel the teeth sinking into my neck," Fisch said on the Winton Road incident.
The SPCA has been holding the animals evidence, charging the owner 25 dollars a day for each dog.
"This is the same thing as somebody owning a gun, and not having proper training with a firearm. It's something that can take somebody's life very quickly, can escalate very quickly, and unless you have the training, discipline and responsibility to handle that kind of significance, I don't think it should be in somebody's hands," said Fisch.
If the owner, Curtis Burton, wants to keep even one of the animals after the case goes to trial, the city has ordered him to get a $100,000 insurance policy for each dog. Burton appears before Judge Ted Berry on Oct. 5.