John Spon

Mansfield Law Director John Spon discusses the topic of animal control in the city of Mansfield. 

MANSFIELD (UPDATED) -- Mansfield intends to hold the Richland County dog warden accountable for services in the city as more and more incidents of vicious dog attacks are reported. 

According to Law Director John Spon, the county dog shelter is funded by revenue generated from dog licenses sold in the county.

"According to the dog warden and our own studies, we believe that about $350,000 of the dog license revenue is generated from dogs in the city (of Mansfield)," Spon said.

But Mansfield isn't seeing any of that money specifically used in the city.

"We are spending and paying inside the city of Mansfield over $350,000 for a service that we're not getting," Mayor Tim Theaker said. 

There is an estimated 13,000 dogs in Mansfield, about 2,000 of which are pit bulls or pit bull types, Spon said.

The American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier or Staffordshire Terrier, or any mixed breed of dog containing the aforementioned breeds are banned in city limits.   

State law, however, defines "vicious," "dangerous" and "nuisance" dogs without regard to breed.

There was a recent attack in which two dogs were killed and another was seriously injured and a man was wounded by two pit bulls on West Third Street.

The owner of the pit bulls retrieved the pit bulls, and the dog warden thereafter issued the owner a citation, Spon said. 

"The dog warden had the choice of leaving the dogs or taking them to the dog pound," Spon said. "He chose to leave the dogs at the residence instead of impounding them."

In this case, Spon said the dog warden neither enforced the city's ban on pit bulls, nor state statute because the pit bulls would have been deemed "dangerous" as a result of the attack and therefore could have been seized and impounded immediately.

Spon said cities may adopt their own dog ordinances. 

"I've requested the police department that any time they find a pit bull, they are to contact the county dog warden and ask him to take that dog to the dog pound, and if not we will take them there," he said.

According to the dog warden, the dog shelter is currently full, Spon said.

"They tell me that 70 percent of the dogs that are out there now are pit bulls and pit bull types," Spon said. "Some of these dogs have been out there for two years."

By law, the shelter is supposed to sell these animals, have them conveyed to a veterinarian or research institute, or have them euthanized, Spon said.

Spon recommended that the city look into creating an animal control officer position in the Mansfield Police Department.

"I think that we are the only city our size that does not have an animal control officer," he said.

Theaker said that before 2011, the City of Mansfield contracted with the county dog warden for animal control services. When Mansfield went into fiscal emergency, the contract was terminated. Since that time, the city has tried to reinitiate the contract, Theaker said.

"But because the State of Ohio has changed their laws and said that a vicious dog and a dangerous dog is different than a pit bull and the City of Mansfield still has breed specific legislation, they don't want to get into another agreement with pit bull obstruction and confiscation," he said.

Both Council President Phil Scott and Fourth Ward Councilman Butch Jefferson recommended the city mirror state law by ditching breed specific legislation, but Spon insisted on keeping the pit bull ban.

Theaker said the city should inform the county dog warden and commissioners of its concerns regarding enforcement of the dog ordinances. 

The law director's office will send a letter, on behalf of Mansfield council's safety committee and city administration, to the county commissioners.

Local citizens are holding a roundtable discussion pertaining to animal control and vicious dogs in the city on April 13  from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Mansfield library.

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Thrive Reporter

Thrive reporter. Graduate of Ontario High School and Ohio State Mansfield. Wife. Mom. Dog lover. Fitness enthusiast. Plant collector. Mac and cheese consumer.

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