November 23, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
54°F
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Beware, owners of ‘vicious’ dogs

Lorain dog warden to deliver about 70 registration notices

LORAIN — Owners of vicious dogs, beware: The city is coming after you.
Lorain Animal Control Officer Mike Mattei plans to hunt down the owners of dogs that have bitten people without provocation. Such dogs are labeled as “vicious,” according to state law.
Mattei plans to track the dogs based on a list kept by the Lorain City Health Department, which is notified of all dog attacks by the doctors who treat bite victims.
Just from incidents that have occurred this year, there are 65 to 70 owners that Mattei needs to find, he said. He plans to hand-deliver letters explaining what they need to do as the owner of a vicious dog to be in compliance.
Once notified, owners will have 30 days to register their animals as a vicious dog with the Lorain Police Department, which will require proof that the dog has a current license, rabies vaccination, a special kennel and special insurance. The owners will also have to pay a $50 fee.
If they do not register their dog, they can receive up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each day they fail to register.
A city law passed in 2002 already allows Mattei to pursue the dogs’ owners, but the law wasn’t enforced because the city was without a dog warden for four years until Mattei was hired in January.
“This should have been enforced a long time ago,” Mattei said. “I’ve known we needed to move on this, but it’s kind of hard when you’ve got 25 dog calls every day.”
The final straw happened Monday, when a dog roaming around Oberlin Avenue that Mattei was called out to capture attempted to attack him. Mattei had to beat the dog off with his fists and kicks until he could grab his dart gun and tranquilize it, he said.
“Later I found out that the dog had bitten someone before but the dispatcher had no idea because it wasn’t registered like it was supposed to be,” Mattei said. “It could have been anyone out there getting attacked, so I knew something had to be done.”
Mattei said had he known the dog’s history, he would have called the police for backup.
“It’s a safety issue,” he said. “Had that dispatcher told me it would be a vicious dog, I could have called in the police and that would have been that.”
Mattei said that although state law already labels all pit bulls as vicious dogs, he won’t be going after specific breeds. Only five of the dogs involved in this year’s incidents were pit bulls, he said.
Safety Service Director Mike Kobylka said Mattei has been proactive since he was hired, especially by getting hundreds of stray dogs off the streets.
“This is what he should be doing,” Kobylka said. “I support him 100 percent.”
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7151 or awright@chroniclet.com.