By DENISE GRANT
The Hancock County Humane Society has added safety measures after a volunteer was seriously injured by a pit bull mix.
Director Paula Krugh said the dog bit the volunteer while she was playing with the animal outside on Feb. 1.
“He really didn’t attack her. He just kind of decided to turn her into the chew toy,” Krugh said.
Krugh said the injuries were serious enough that the volunteer had to seek medical attention. The dog, called “Lenny,” which was on the society’s adoption floor, was euthanized and a rabies test was conducted on the remains. The test was negative.
“It felt very defeating,” Krugh said. “The volunteer really loved this dog. It was hard for her, and everyone understood that.”
Dana Berger, Hancock County dog warden, said no one is sure why the dog bit the volunteer.
“I took Lenny from a cruelty situation, so we know he was being neglected. He wasn’t being fed. He was a very sweet dog, with no signs of aggression toward other dogs or people,” Berger said. “We don’t know what went wrong.”
Berger said Lenny was a big and powerful dog. Berger said he doesn’t believe the dog was playing when he bit the volunteer.
“I don’t think they were play bites, but we really don’t know. It’s like he snapped or something,” Berger said.
The Humane Society has about 30 to 50 volunteers on site daily, Krugh said. All are trained to safely handle dogs, and each must sign a liability waiver in case of injury.
New safety protocols will include panic buttons, the buddy system, and more cameras at the shelter.
In the past year, three volunteers have been bitten by dogs at the shelter, and all three dogs were pit bull mixes. Only one, Lenny, was euthanized. The other bites were attributed to playful activities.
Public dog shelters started putting pit bull and pit bull mixes up for adoption in May 2012, after Ohio ended a 25-year-old law that labeled all pit bulls as inherently vicious. Now, many of the dogs at the county shelter are pit bulls or pit bull mixes. All dogs are tested for aggression.
The “bully breeds” are popular, Krugh said.
In 2013, 24 pit bulls or pit bull mixes were reclaimed from the Hancock County Humane Society by their owners, and 41 were adopted. Eight were transferred to rescues, and 18 were euthanized.
Before the vicious dog law was changed, pit bulls were often left unclaimed at the shelter.
“You would be surprised how many came in here and no one came looking for them. Now, people are not as worried about getting in trouble,” Berger said. “Pit bulls are not treated any differently than other dogs.”
Ohio requires any dog showing behavioral problems to be designated in one of three categories:
• A “nuisance” dog is one that has chased or menaced a person, or attempted to bite a person, while off its premises. A dog cited three times for being a nuisance dog can be deemed “dangerous.”
• A “dangerous” dog has caused injury to a person, or killed another dog.
• A “vicious” dog has killed or seriously injured a person without provocation. A vicious dog can be put down, unless spared by a judge.
Owners of dogs placed in one of the three classifications face penalties ranging from fines to felony charges.
Since the law was enacted in May 2012, nine dogs have been declared a nuisance by animal control in Hancock County. Nine have been declared dangerous, and five vicious.
“And I can tell you that not all those dogs are pit bulls. I think maybe three,” Berger said.
Out of the 30 dog bites reported in Hancock County in 2013, 10 were attributed to pit bulls.