The lack of a new contract between the city of Toledo and the Lucas County Dog Warden's Office stymied discussions Tuesday about how the Toledo Police Department and the dog warden will work together to apply a new state law regarding vicious dogs.
Councilman D. Michael Collins, chairman of the public safety, law and criminal justice committee, said he was concerned because the city and county have not worked together to enforce the dog-related sections of the city's municipal law, which was revised in October, 2010, with input from the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee, but never was signed into contract.
"I want to know what we need to do in order to make sure that the Toledo Police Department and the dog warden are able to work together going forward" in enforcing the law, Mr. Collins said.
The new law, which goes into effect May 21 and was sponsored by Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township):
Redefines current designations of "vicious" and "dangerous" dogs;
Creates a third, lesser category of "nuisance" dog;
Creates a process for dog owners to appeal law enforcement's labeling of their dogs,
Places the burden to prove the classification by clear and convincing evidence on the dog warden.
The law also removes "pit bulls" from automatic categorization as vicious dogs.
Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle, who addressed the committee at Tuesday's meeting, said that without a contract with the city, the dog warden cannot enforce municipal code.
"That doesn't absolve you of enforcing Ohio State Code" which in some cases is identical to the municipal code, Mr. Collins responded.
Ms. Lyle replied that regardless of a contract -- or lack thereof -- with the city, her department is preparing to enforce the new state law.
Lucas County Assistant Prosecutor Andrew Ranazzi said the county is querying other counties in the state about changes they are making in their dog warden and animal control departments to prepare to enforce the state law.
The contract between the city and the dog warden ended Dec. 31 and has been temporary extended twice, currently to May 14. One item at issue in the new contract is that it is expected to cost Toledo taxpayers an estimated $140,000 a year in overtime pay to six deputy dog wardens for after-hours and weekend calls.
Mr. Collins on Tuesday echoed a recommendation by the advisory committee, which calls for the dog warden to institute an afternoon shift to cover calls made between 4 and 9 p.m. -- the busiest time for dog-related calls.
Ms. Lyle has said the deputies' collective bargaining contract prohibits her from scheduling after 4 p.m. for city calls.
Councilman Rob Ludeman, who was a member of the advisory committee, said the city should consider training its police officers to handle animal-related calls. He said there had been previous discussion of creating a city animal control officer and issuing a request for proposals. He said he wanted to resurrect that and asked Adam Loukx, the city's law director, to report back on the status of that issue.
John Dinon, Toledo Area Humane Society executive director and a member of the advisory committee, said he and the other committee members are frustrated because they did much work to revise the section of the municipal ordinance that pertains to dogs, and 16 months later, it's still not being enforced.
The city and county have debated whether the police department or the dog warden would enforce the code as it pertains to dogs.
"I'm hoping that now that Councilman Collins has brought this up again and the state law is going to change, it will force them to finish the job they started so long ago," Mr. Dinon said.
Some of the law changes would give the humane society additional power, in particular in instances of dogs being confined in a motor vehicle or tethered in yards.
"Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus have all passed and are enforcing laws based off the work we did" in rewriting the dog-related sections of the Toledo Municipal Code," Mr. Dinon said.
"But here, the city and the county just continue to point fingers at each other over whose job it is to enforce it."
Contact Tanya Irwin at: email@example.com or 419-724-6066.