Is lack of vicious dog law enforcement putting public at risk? Carl Monday investigates

Published: May. 24, 2017 at 5:56 PM EDT|Updated: May. 25, 2017 at 12:02 PM EDT
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The City of Cleveland's Division of Animal Control appears to not be monitoring Level 1 and Level 2 Threat Dogs, animals deemed vicious by the city.

According to Codified Ordinances in the City of Cleveland, if a dog without provocation chases or approaches,  intimidates or attempts to attack a human or a domestic animal three times within twelve months time, the dog is to be labeled a Level 1 Threat Dog. If a dog seriously injures a domestic animal or human without provocation, the dog is to be quarantined for 10 days at its residence and labeled a Level 2 Threat Dog.

The owner or harborer of the animal must supply a copy of liability insurance to Cleveland's Division of Animal Control within 30 days of the incident and post a sign that clearly reads "Level 1 Threat Dog" or "Level 2 Threat Dog" with a visual drawing or photo of a vicious dog on all property access points. These are at least two of the items the owner or harborer of the threat dog must comply with, according to the City of Cleveland.

Cleveland 19 requested a current listing of the city's threat dogs, along with copies of insurance policies on file. Cleveland provided a listing of forty locations where threat dogs resided. No copies of required proof of insurance were ever supplied.

Only one of the forty threat dog location in Cleveland had the required "threat dog" sign posted.

Christina Grace is the owner of "King" who attacked neighbor Tiffany Farnham's four-year-old daughter while the two were visiting King's home.


"He viciously attacked my daughter. All I seen was blood coming down, it was terrible. Imagine a 40-pound baby on the floor and a dog over the top. My heart sank. And to see that, I couldn't look at her face" said Farnham.

Attacked by a dog twice her size, daughter Ivey was left with facial injuries that required stitches and eventual plastic surgery. It could have been a lot worse, "she could have been dead if we were not standing there, who knows what could have happened" said an emotional Farnham.


Cleveland has laws that deal with owners of dogs who attack. But Christina Grace, who says her dog King was provoked, hasn't been cited. Grace hasn't been ordered to post dangerous dog signs on her property either. We asked if Cleveland told Grace to post a sign saying the dog was a Level 1 or Level 2 Threat Dog and Grace replied "no, they told me he wasn't dangerous."

Cleveland designates a Level 1 Threat Dog as one that without provocation has approached or chased a person in a menacing fashion three times in twelve months. A Level 2 Threat Dog is one that has seriously injured a person or domestic animal.

The City's Chief Animal Control Officer Ed Jamison provided us with a copy of forty current locations where residents have been cited and signage should be posted warning about the Threat Dogs. Only one of the forty had the correct, specific sign. In most cases, we found no signs at all.

Brian Williams was cited after his dog Diamond bit another dog while out on a walk. We asked if his dog was dangerous, and Williams admitted "sometimes." Williams said he just hadn't gotten around to getting a Level 2 Threat Dog sign from Cleveland.


It's a sign that can't be obtained from the city, residents have to get or make their own so it appears.  The measurements from the signs and the exact wording can be found online, in City codified ordinances section 604.04.  Williams thought the sign on the gate that read "Beware of Dog" was good enough, but not according to Cleveland code.

Take a look at Marsha Walker-Eastwood's case. This is her dog named Ellie, a Level 2 Threat Dog.  Ellie jumped a neighbor's fence and attacked both the neighbor and his dog.


It was the second incident involving Ellie and landed her owner Marsha Walker Eastwood in Cleveland Municipal Court. Walker-Eastwood was ordered to build a higher fence and post a Level 2 Threat Dog sign.  This was the only Level 2 Threat Dog sign our investigative team found in the entire city.

"You think the city is doing a good job of enforcing laws that should be enforced?" I asked. " I think it's selective, I think the judges and prosecutors are unaware of how many dogs are out and about" said Walker-Eastwood.

We did find homes on the current dangerous dog list where the animal had died, or in one case, the dog owner himself was attacked and he turned the dog in.

But what happens when a tenant moves out, and takes their dangerous dog with them? Is anyone at the city's Division of Animal Control tracking these dogs? And why isn't anyone enforcing the law requiring the dangerous dog signs along with providing mandatory proof of liability insurance?

We asked for an interview with the Cleveland's Chief Animal Control Officer Ed Jamison. A spokesperson for the Mayor's Officer said he didn't want to go on camera, and requested a list of written questions instead. After waiting days without a written response to our submitted questions, we paid a visit to the dog pound. We were told Jamison was not available.

After her daughter was attacked, Tiffany Farnham says someone from Animal Control did stop by, but they never took a report and never called back. "It sounds like someone is will nilly shoving my daughter's case under the rug" says Farnham.  Tiffany also says her daughter's physical and emotional scars may never heal. She fears for the other kids in the neighborhood. "What happens if that dog gets out? What happens if he attacks another child on the street? asks Farnham who also says the current dog attack law- even when enforced- favors the dog, not the victim.

"If a dog bites one time, a child, that dog needs to be put to sleep. No questions asked. Surrender your dog" said Farnham.

To learn more about dogs that pose a threat to public safety, click here.

Click here to find the animal complaint form to report a nuisance dog in your neighborhood.

Take a look at Cleveland's animal bite statistics through the years: