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ST. MARYS — The county’s dog warden says he has seen a spike in pit bull related incidents in recent weeks.
“Pit bulls are an issue countywide,” Auglaize County Dog Warden Russ Bailey said. “Here in St. Marys, we are starting to see more. There have been several calls dealing with pit bulls.”
Calls range from pit bulls running at-large to growling at people walking on the sidewalk. Bailey said his department is responsible for responding to dogs at-large calls, which the warden prioritizes. However, if a pit bull is involved, Bailey said an officer will respond immediately.
“Some calls we may not get to for an hour or so because we cover the entire county,” Bailey said. “Any pit bull call, we give priority and we will come in, even after hours, to handle that.”
Bailey responded to an incident in the city last week. On Oct. 4, a pair of pit bulls belonging to the same owner escaped and mauled two dogs, killing one. Bailey said it’s a lesson pit bull owners should take to heart.
“They got loose out of a seven-foot, wooden fence,” Bailey said, noting the dogs chewed through the wood. “They got loose and attacked one person’s lab, which they put several puncture wounds in, but it’s OK. The owners came out and tried to get the dogs off the lab, which they did. But then one resident on Tecumbseh (Drive) had their shih-tzu and poodle mix attacked. The neighbors used ball bats and shovels to get them off. It ripped it open and the dog ended up dying.”
Bailey said charges are pending as a result of the attack. Bailey said the owner of the dogs euthanized the animals following the incident.
Under Ohio law, pit bulls, including mixed pit bulls, are considered a vicious dog. Bailey said those who own a pit bull must take several precautions.
“If you own a pit bull, you must have $100,000 liability insurance on the dog,” Bailey said.
“You cannot chain it up in the back yard. You either have to have the dog on a lead or put it in an enclosed cage with a top on it and a pad lock on the gate. Our folks from the other night, I’m sure they thought the fence was adequate, but now you see why it wasn’t.”
Penalties for allowing a pit bull to run loose can be stiff. A regular dog at-large violation is a minor misdemeanor, similar to a traffic ticket.
However, a pit bull at-large violation can be a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail.
“We do take folks to court and some are serious,” Bailey said.
“The first offense is a first-degree misdemeanor, a second can be a felony.”
Bailey acknowledged not all pit bulls should be cast in a negative light. However, owners should take the necessary precautions when owning the breed.
“I’m not saying all pit bulls are mean,” Bailey said.
“We’ve taken in several and a lot of them are good-natured dogs. But the other thing you need to look at is if my chihuahua attacks, it won’t tear you apart. You have to look at the severity that could occur.”
Bailey said owning a pit bull is a big responsibility. He also encouraged anyone with questions to contact him at 419-302-8303.
“Use responsibility to care for the dog and meet the financial obligations,” Bailey said.
“I would say take some time and thought before you run out and get one.”