Cincinnati Council Weighs Pre-Crime Fines For Dog Crimes

DSC00172 Cincinnati, Ohio – On Tuesday, January 20th, 2015, the Law and Public Safety Committee met to discuss dog ordinance  policy that surrounded the pit bull attack of Zainabou Drame.

Zainabou Drame was attacked by the dog in June of 2014. The attack was partially caught on film thanks to Cincinnati Police Dash camera video and gained national attention. The dogs’ owner, 24-year-old neighbor Zontae Irby, was arrested and indicted. Cincinnati police claim the dog was guarding a drug trafficking operation. The new ordinance and animal task force is modeled after an older animal task force the City of Cincinnati created but that budget cuts killed.

The new ordinance and animal task force is a creation of the Law and Public Safety Committee chaired by Cincinnati Councilman Christopher Smithermann and Councilman Christopher Seelbach. The new vicious dog ordinance and animal task force is set for review next month by the full City of Cincinnati Council. City Solicitor Roshani Hardin, who helped draft the viscous dog ordinance, introduced portions about how the owner of any loose or leashed animal who bit a bystander etc would be charged under criminal penalties for physical injury caused. Councilman Kevin Flynn questioned and rejected the logic of those elements. Flynn voiced his concerns about it being a tool of abuse by law enforcement to target innocent dog lovers and not drug dealers.

“Ms. Hardin, relative to the criminal penalties for injury, is there an intent element contained there? Dogs get loose, sometimes dogs bite. Is it a strict liability, criminal strict liability,” said Councilman Kevin Flynn. “These additional penalties would fall under strict liability,” stated Hardin. “I gotta problem with imposing criminal liability, without intent,” said Flynn.

Flynn elaborated on scenarios like, what if an animal exhibits no biting characteristics and gets loose for the first time? Perhaps no one else is around where an animal is loose and someone claimed harm from a bite. What if there are three owners? Do they all get criminal penalties? Consider this if he had lived under the ordinance:

“On Dec. 29, 2014, Hilyard and April Edwards got into an altercation, which quickly escalated. Hilyard stabbed Edwards with a kitchen knife and fled the scene. Davis promptly called 911 for help. DeKalb County Police were dispatched, and Officer Joseph Pitts was first to arrive on scene. Per three witness accounts, Officer Pitts did not announce his arrival or identify himself. He entered the home to find the couple’s three-legged dog, Tooter, whom he shot and killed. Upon hearing shots, Davis became alarmed that his girlfriend’s assailant might have returned with a gun. He retrieved his own gun, proceeded to the front room of his home and was shot twice by Officer Pitts. ” – excerpt from “This Black Man Was Shot To Death By Cops After Calling The Police For Help” – by Jim Chambers, AlterNet, January 27, 2015.

“All of these criminal penalties are not, ‘if your dog bites someone you go to jail.’ All of them are possibilities for prosecutors and judges to consider,” Councilman Chris Seelbach rebuffed. “If this were to be a case of a dog who had no problems and an owner who was acting responsibly…accidentally got out…bit someone, I would imagine that a prosecutor or judge would take all that information into account in deciding to pursue criminal charges. This gives them a tool…to punish deserving bad owners of dogs.”

Councilman Seelbach thinks that the time constraints of junior assistant prosecutors and time constraints of overworked and myopic judges will settle in and consider all evidence in a fair trial in the name of justice? However, nobody has looked at the number of people in court on charges at the Hamilton County Justice center everyday? Each courtroom sees over 100 or more cases per day. How can any judge or prosecutor render a fair trial in a courtroom and complete a fair trial when they are operating the courtroom as efficient as a short order cook during the lunch hour? Prosecutors and judges are meant to seek justice, not bend the tools of the profession at their discretion to manufacture outcomes and substitute their facts to meet their desired conviction demands. Recently, this is the kind of injustice that the United States of America woefully allows to happen ad nauseum.

“My sense about this issue is that it is an issue,” said Councilman Smithermann. “That is a first good step in problem solving that we acknowledge we have a problem and to tackle it. There are a few bad actors when you think of the number of dogs…dog owners in the City of Cincinnati across the county…The majority of dog owners, and I’m a dog owner, that interact with the public are responsible dog owners…We have some criminals that have decided to use animals to hide their illegal activity…it could change to any type of specific breed…We’re all concerned about this illegal behavior and the use of an animal as a weapon to protect this illegal activity.”

This doesn’t sound logical. First Councilman Smithermann’s logic creates a magical thinking false equivalency that the dogs hide illegal activities and that the dogs are weapons  i.e. dangerous. Thus, animals have magical fairy-like properties that are invisibility cloaks for drug dealers and dogs magically transform into weapons. Through this kind of magical thinking we can propose that Mr. Smithermann’s been watching too much Pokemon on television. Have you been watching too much Pokemon Mr. Smithermann?

Mr. Smithermann’s affectation for Peter Pan Pokemon logic dictates that this is more ado about the harm to police and neighborhood safety. It is not about illegal activities. When was the last time you saw a dog offer to sell drugs or roll through in a car with gun shooting in a drive by killing? This is also more about adding bonus specious pre-criminal and post criminal charges against an innocent person. A person who goes to trial for drug charges and either has a chihuahua or pit bull as a pet in their apartment. Discretion is left to the prosecutor and the police officers to charge, arrest and prosecute for specious pre-crimes.

“One of my other problems with the criminalization of this Mr. Chairman is I don’t know what good it is gonna do. We’re a city. We can’t criminalize more than misdemeanor and when we’re talking about the drug dealer, who almost killed a little girl, with/by using his dog; they don’t care at all about misdemeanors. They’re committing class A felonies,” said Councilman Kevin Flynn “…They’re doing activities that go far beyond what we as a city can penalize criminally…Go after em civilly. And I would suggest we go after em hard, civilly. That means we hit em E2 the first event, we go up the second event, we go up the third event; we’re hittin em $15K dollars a pop if that’s the highest we can go. We double it if they don’t pay it within seven days if we’re allowed. We hit em where it hurts in the pocket book.” If there was someone who displayed a cool head on the Cincinnati City Council it would be Mr. Kevin Flynn: “The use of a dog in the commission of a felony, drug dealing, should result in enhanced penalties, just as the use of a gun in the commission of a felony results in enhanced penalties,” spoke Councilman Flynn “To say ‘If you’re using a vicious dog, a dog a dangerous in the commission of another crime that takes it up a notch…You’re going to prison.”

All that is required is a sensible fine that is not excessive, cruel or unusual. There must be an intent element written into the ordinance in the commission of a separate crime that causes physical injury to the public etc. However, the current legal jargon exists to pre-crime people or their pets that have not committed any physical injury. Disgusting. – Source:


About Take The Gate

A web based blog about Ohio and intelligence gathering tool for the spread of aletheia, logos, and, sophia (truth, reason, and wisdom). Looking through the glass darkly.
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