Attack follows vicious dog ordinance

The day after Whitehall City Council adopted an ordinance with stiffer penalties for owners of vicious dogs, a resident was attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull and Labrador retriever.  

The ordinance says Whitehall will follow the laws set forth by the Ohio Revised Code. City Attorney Michael Shannon said the Staffordshire terrier, American bulldog, American pit bull terrier, and mixtures of those breeds, would be recognized as vicious.

The state law requires $100,000 of liability insurance, a six foot fence, registration and microchipping.

According to official reports, Harold Fergus was heading out to an appointment with his dog just after 9 a.m. on July 2. He had just got his dog in his truck and shut the door when two dogs allegedly burst through his next door neighbor’s side door and began biting Fergus. The dogs belong to Laurie Topping, who was not at home at the time of the attack. Fergus received bites on his left arm, left leg and chest. The wounds to his left arm required stitches after he was taken to Mount Carmel Hospital by Whitehall emergency personnel.

Whitehall Police cited Topping for "dog at-large" and "animal bite." Franklin County placed the dogs in a 10-day quarantine at home.  

According to the police report, Topping came home and provided proof of the proper licensing and shots. She also has the required six-foot fence. However, Franklin County Animal Control issued Topping with a citation for not having the required $100,000 liability insurance for a pit bull.

Topping told authorities she thought her dog was a boxer mix, but Franklin County identified it as a pit bull.

Whitehall resident Barb Penn, who has been involved in animal rescue for over 35 years, said it is not  unusual for another dog from the same household to participate in such an attack. She said the "pack instinct" kicks in, with the pit bull being the alpha dog and other dogs following its actions.  

In an unrelated, different incident in April involving three at-large pit bulls, a neighbor and his small dog were allegedly chased and bitten.  According to Bryan Wagner in Judge Harland Hale’s office, the owner did not appear for his June 25 court date, and a bench warrant for his arrest was issued June 26. He has not yet been picked up.  

The dogs’ owner had erected a six-foot fence without obtaining proper permits. He was cited into court by code enforcement. Service Director Ray Ogden said the owner was fined $150, which has not been paid. Ogden plans to cite him back into court; fines will continue to mount.

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