Mark Kumpf to stand trial in case by survivors of Klonda Richey
This is part I of a two-part series. See also Court rejects animal control chief Mark Kumpf’s defenses.
DAYTON, Ohio––The Ohio Second Appellate District Court of Appeals on July 29, 2016 overturned an earlier trial court finding that Montgomery County Animal Resources Center director Mark Kumpf may not be sued for alleged negligence leading to the fatal mauling of Dayton resident Klonda Richey on February 7, 2014 by two dogs variously identified in court documents as “large-breed pit bulls, mastiffs, or cane corsos.”
Cane corsos, though traced back to Roman times on the web sites of some breeders who offer no historical support for their claims, are a mastiff/pit bull mix which according to NewspaperArchive.com were first listed for sale in classified ads in 1995.
Victim sought help 60 times
Richey, an employee of Montgomery County Children Services who kept about 20 well-cared-for cats, filed 13 complaints with the Animal Resource Center about the dogs who eventually killed her.
Richey also called the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center 46 times between December 27, 2011, and her death.
Many of Richey’s complaints alleged that the dogs had chased her. Two complaints specifically alleged that the dogs’ owners, Andrew Nason and Julie Custer, had directly threatened her with attack.
Built fence, installed camera
Richey in January 2013 appealed unsuccessfully to Montgomery County Court for a restraining order against Nason and Custer. Richey also paid to have a fence built between her home of 24 years and the Nason/Custer home, which Nason and Custer had occupied since March 2011, and had a video security system installed to monitor the fence. The dogs allegedly breached the fence on several occasions.
More than a year after Richey was mauled to death, after the dogs stripped the clothing from her body and left her remains in a snowbank, Nason and Custer were finally convicted by Judge Carl Henderson in April 2015 on two counts each of failure to control dogs.
Kumpf is last defendant
Barbara Schneider, executor for Klonda Richey’s estate, initially filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful death and personal injury against Montgomery County, the county board of commissioners, the Animal Resource Center, and Kumpf personally. An amended complaint filed in July 2015 narrowed the scope of the case to Kumpf only, in his actions as an individual.
The Ohio Second Appellate District Court of Appeals did not rule on the substance of the case against Kumpf, but did “conclude that Schneider is entitled to conduct discovery on the issue of whether Kumpf owed Richey a duty [of protection from the dogs], in order to give the trial court a full factual basis for ruling on the issue.”
Kumpf has argued that the Animal Resource Center had no duty to impound the dogs who killed Richey because no dog warden dispatched in response to her complaints ever personally saw the dogs running at large. Ohio law provides, however, that dogs not seen running at large by a dog warden may be impounded nonetheless if a court so directs, and establishes a procedure for citizens to follow to obtain a dog seizure order from a court.
Mail delivery suspended
Whether Richey followed the complete procedure, or was advised by the Animal Resource Center how to follow it, is unclear from the 41-page Ohio Second Appellate District Court of Appeals verdict.
However, the U.S. Postal Service in March 2013 reportedly suspended delivery of mail to Richey’s block because Nason and Custer’s dogs were running at large, posing an evident threat to mail carriers.
Thus Richey was not the only person seeking action to restrain the dogs.
Dogs “had no history,” claimed Kumpf
Kumpf has argued that the Animal Resource Center had no duty to impound Nason and Custer’s dogs because they “did not have a designation as nuisance, dangerous or vicious,” having “had no history of biting someone or killing another dog.”
Ohio law before February 2012 used the term “vicious dog,” including any dog who “[b]elongs to a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog, ” and held that owning, keeping, or harboring a pit bull is prima facie evidence of owning, keeping, or harboring a vicious dog.”
People in possession of pit bulls were required to meet standards for safely confining them, and were required to have liability insurance covering any of the pit bulls’ actions.
Kumpf instrumental in undoing Ohio law
Kumpf as an officer of the Ohio Dog Wardens Association from at least 2007 through 2015, when he served as president, and Geauga County dog warden Matt Granito, also a longtime Ohio Dog Wardens Association officer, were instrumental in removing the breed-specific language from the Ohio state law.
Previously the law would have required that Nason and Custer’s dogs be designated “vicious,” and that Nason and Custer take appropriate precautions, before the dogs killed or injured a person or another animal
Three local dead in three years
Richey was the second victim of a fatal dog attack in Montgomery County in the two years after the Ohio law was changed. Richey was also the second of three Montgomery County victims whose life might have been saved had the pre-2012 Ohio breed-specific legislation been in effect and enforced.
The first victim, Dawn Juergens, 75, was killed by her own two cane corsos on September 1, 2012.
Three years in prison
The third victim, 7-month-old Jonathan Quarles Jr., was on July 20, 2014 killed by a pit bull in the home of his grandmother, Kimiko Hardy. Hardy, 38, on August 4, 2014 was convicted of allowing a pit bull to attack another dog, in an incident occurring about a month before the Quarles attack. Euthanized a month later, the pit bull had also previously attacked a mail carrier.
Hardy was sentenced to pay $172 in restitution, received 180 days in jail, suspended, and––as a purported first-time offender––reportedly completed a 150-minute dog behavior course at the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center.
Convicted on June 9, 2016 of six counts pertaining to the attack that killed her grandson, Hardy was sentenced to serve three years in prison.
“Changed his philosophy”
Mark Kumpf, an animal control officer since 1989, served on the National Animal Control Association board of directors from 2000 to 2009, including three years as NACA president, 2007-2009.
Hired as director of the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center and and as the county dog warden in July 2006, Kumpf “had changed his philosophy from an ‘enforcement mode’ to an ‘education mode,’ the Ohio Second Appellate District Court of Appeals verdict summarized.
“In the enforcement mode,” the verdict continued, “Kumpf’s approach had been to see how many animals he could pick up, how fast the animals could be gotten off the road, and how many summonses he could write. In this mode, he averaged 100 to 150 citations per month. In contrast, Kumpf’s education approach involved issuing fewer summonses and focusing citations on the more serious cases.
Citations under Kumpf fell 33%
“After Kumpf came to Montgomery County in 2006,” the verdict elaborated, “the number of citations issued to citizens dropped by more than 33% in the first two years of his tenure. At first, Kumpf’s bosses were concerned about a drop in revenue. However, Kumpf pointed out that he had taken in 2,000 fewer animals, and that licensing and adoption revenues had increased. Kumpf also instructed his deputy wardens to write fewer citations because he believed the courts were not doing their job, and were notoriously unhelpful with citation fines and enforcement.
“In the two years before Richey’s death,” the verdict added, “out of more than 20,000 calls about animals, only about 697 (about 3.4 percent) resulted in citations. Of 60,000 dogs in Montgomery County, only 12 were designated as ‘nuisance’ or ‘dangerous’ dogs in 2013.
“At Kumpf’s direction, officers were not patrolling,” the verdict found. “In addition, also at Kumpf’s direction, dispatchers routinely refused to answer phone calls requesting service during business hours. Instead, dispatchers pushed a ‘divert’ button on the phone and calls were sent to voicemail. All of the calls Klonda Richey made to ARC went to voicemail.”