Recent dog attacks have Mansfield trying to address growing problem

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MANSFIELD, Ohio - Dennis Rohwer recalls letting his dogs out into the back yard as a part of their normal routine.

Soon after he says he heard a strange noise and found two pit bulls mauling his dog 'Remington'.

"It was a surreal situation. Right there at the bottom of our steps was two pit bulls ganged up on Remmy our dog, and I didn't have anything at the time but a motorcycle helmet and I started banging on them and it didn't even phase them," said Rohwer.

Rohwer says he went indoors to find something else with which to fight off the dogs, and when he came back outside his other dog 'Gracie' was dead.

"She was with us in so many things that we did. We camped at a lake and she went along and she has been kayaking. She'd get hot and go in the water all by herself. She'd look like big caterpillar because her hair was so long," said his wife Hettie.

The couple says after the pit bulls finished with their dogs they hurtled a fence and went into a neighbor's yard, literally grabbing his Dachshund out of his arms and viciously killing that dog as well.

Mansfield has a law on the books banning pit bulls in the city limits.

But Law Director John Spon says the law is effectively unenforceable.

Spon says there is a disconnect between the state law, which no longer designates specific breeds or dogs as vicious, and the city's ordinance.

In addition, he says there may be several thousand pit bulls in the city and not enough manpower to enforce the ban.

"We do not have a municipal animal control officer, so the responsibility falls on the county. Our county is 800-square miles. They only have two people. It's impossible for them to meet the requirements of the law, which requires a county dog warden to - quote unquote - patrol the streets," said Spon.

Spon says police are busy enforcing other laws and do not want to be animal wardens.

In the case of the loose dogs that attacked the Rohwer's pets, the warden initially cited their owner for having loose dogs and returned the animals to them.

Spon says he has since signed warrants to have the dogs confiscated, calling them dangerous. He worries that the breed itself is not one that can be trusted and calls the problem a statewide health and safety issue.

"This a public health problem of immense proportions, it's getting worse and it's an issue of life and death for citizens in the community," said Spon.

Spon wants state lawmakers to take the matter seriously and allow for the enforcement and the funding of laws like the one Mansfield already has.

Hattie Rohwer says she knows there are other pit bulls in her neighborhood and after the attack in her own yard, she says it has changed their life and their routine.

"I'm scared to death. Our dogs have a doggie door and they have a radio fence and now I'm afraid to let them out without one of us with them," she said.

"It's not that we hate all pit bulls. It's not even the dogs' fault in a lot of cases. But there's like a pit bull epidemic here - we have way too many pit bulls," she added.

Spon is not as forgiving of the breed and is adamant about the problem being addressed in a meaningful way.

"I would say given the degree of danger and the issue of life and death it's not too big. The problem is that they have allowed it to become a very difficult task to manage. Basically it's not only a law enforcement issue but I consider it a public health issue too."​

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