DAYTON, Ohio; BLACKBURN, Lancashire, U.K.––Animal control officials blamed weaknesses in the dog laws of Ohio and the United Kingdom for the early February 2014 deaths of Klonda Richey, 57, and Ava-Jane Corless, 11 months.
Both Richey and Corless were killed by dogs who had been the subjects of repeated complaints to the agencies with local animal control authority––in Richey’s case, the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center, and in Corless’ case, the Royal SPCA of England & Wales.
Richey was on February 7, 2014 fatally mauled by two Cane Corsos kept by her neighbors in Dayton, Ohio. Police shot both dogs at the scene. Andrew Nason, 28, and Julie Custer, 23, whose dogs they were, spent most of three days in jail, but were released without charges.
Dayton Police Sergeant Richard Blommel said that Nason and Custer might be indicted for related offenses later.
Richey was the third victim of a fatal dog attack in Montgomery County in 17 months. Dawn Juergens, 75, was killed by her own two Cane Corsos on September 1, 2012. Elizabeth Hirt, 93, died on December 11, 2012, two weeks after she was fatally mauled by her own two Boston terriers––the only fatal or disfiguring attack by Boston terriers on record.
Montgomery County Animal Resource Center director Mark Kumpf acknowledged that his department had received 13 calls believed to be about the Cane Corsos who killed Richey, “ranging from condition checks on dogs to dogs running loose and dogs barking, beginning in December of 2011 and with the final call coming in September of 2013. Officers responded to each and every call,” Kumpf said. “In all but two cases, we found no one at home or no one answered the door. In addition, all but one call made to our agency were anonymous.
“Under Ohio laws,” Kumpf continued, for a dog-at-large citation to be written, “the officer must witness the dog off the property and not under the owner’s immediate control.” A citation cannot be issued, Kumpf asserted, “based on a third party witnessing the event. In each of these calls, our officers did not witness the dogs off the property or not in the control of their owner.
“Many have asked why these dogs were not designated as ‘dangerous dogs,’” Kumpf acknowledged. Since February 2012, however, Ohio law has limited the definition of “dangerous dog” to dogs who have injured a person without provocation, or have killed another dog, or have been the subject of at least three citations for creating a nuisance and/or running at large.
“We have no record of either of these dogs biting a person or killing another dog, nor have any citations been issued for a nuisance animal or running at large violation,” Kumpf said.
Kumpf’s interpretation that current Ohio law requires dog wardens to see violations in order to cite them does not appear to be spelled out in the law, and has been disputed by other Ohio dog wardens.
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.
Cane Corsos, though dubiously traced back to Roman times by some breeders’ web sites, are a mastiff/pit bull mix which according to NewspaperArchive.com were first listed for sale in classified ads in 1995.
A photograph of Kumpf with Jane Berkey, founder of the pit bull advocacy organization Animal Farm Foundation, was apparently deleted from Kumpf’s Facebook page after at least two online petitions were started to seek his dismissal.
Megan O’Rourke of WDTN News in Dayton reported that in addition to the complaints about the dogs made to the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center, 16 calls about them had been made to the Dayton 911 emergency telephone number. WDTN aired video recorded from security cameras Richey had mounted in her multi-year effort to show that the dogs who killed her were dangerous.
“Richey submitted the videos as evidence when she went to court in January 2013, trying to get a protection order,” O’Rourke narrated. “You see in the video that Richey was having a privacy fence built to further separate her from the threat. Her neighbor steps over the fence toward Richey. In another, you see dogs near a man putting up the fence. At night, you see one of the dogs off leash, running in her driveway.”
Added rival station WKEF, “The male suspect, Nason, has had several convictions, including one for a violent crime. Nason has eight cases in the Montgomery County Courts, including two in civil court. Charges in two criminal cases were dismissed, but he was convicted of possession of cocaine twice, once in 2005 and again in 2006. Also in 2005, he was convicted of possessing criminal tools. And in 2012 he was convicted of petty theft and assault.”
Nason was booked in September 2012 on a charge of child endangerment.
“We checked with children’s services, and was told there is an open case, but they couldn’t give us any more details,” WKEF reported.
Richey had no known close living relatives, but shared her home with 17 well-cared-for cats. The cats were impounded by the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center. Kumpf posed for photos with one of them, pledging that the agency would make every effort to rehome them.
A fire believed to be arson was extinguished on the second floor of Richey’s home on February 21, 2004.
RSPCA left pit bull in home despite complaints
Corless was on February 10, 2014 killed in her bedroom by a pit bull while her mother Chloe King, 20, and her mother’s boyfriend, Lee Wright, 26, were asleep downstairs.
“RSPCA inspectors had previously visited the house,” reported Telegraph crime correspondent Martin Evans, in response to neighbors’ complaints about the dog’s behavior. “In March 2012,” Evans narrated, “the animal attacked and killed a cat, but no action was taken and it is not thought inspectors saw the animal in question. Last year the RSPCA was again called out to the address following concerns over the health of a litter of puppies, but the dog was not removed as it was not considered to be a banned breed,” contrary to the inquest findings after Corless was killed.
Acknowledged an RSPCA spokesperson, “Two puppies were signed over to the RSPCA, who were subsequently found new homes.”
Evans reported that two neighbors called the RSPCA in February 2013 after the pit bull invaded the family garden and chased Faizel Shahzad, 35, indoors.
Pit bulls were banned in Britain by the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, but “Staffordshires,” one of the oldest fighting lines, were exempted from the ban in 1997.
In addition, 2,317 pit bulls of the nominally banned varieties have been individually exempted from the ban, while 415 pit bulls failed behavioral assessment and were killed, according to data obtained by BBC News in November 2013 through a Freedom of Information Act request.