YOUNGSTOWN New dog officer will begin work to stem problems

Penalties for animal law violators need to be toughened, the city prosecutor says.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A new full-time deputy Mahoning County dog warden will begin working late afternoons and evenings in the city now that he has completed his training.
Carol Markovich, Mahoning County dog warden, made the announcement at a Wednesday meeting of city council's safety committee.
The new deputy dog warden, Sean Toohey of Campbell, who began work April 23, grew up on the city's North Side, and his $36,000 combined salary and benefit cost will be split evenly between the city and county.
Toohey will also work weekend hours to catch loose dogs and enforce dog laws after a recent series of dog attacks on city residents.
"The fact that people are going to see an additional person out there in the off-hours is going to curtail some of the activities that they allow their animals to do -- like running loose," said John R. Swierz, D-7th, committee chairman.
Enhanced penalties: The committee also received written recommendations from Dionne M. Almasy, city prosecutor, calling for enhanced penalties for violators of the city's animal-related ordinances. Her recommendations include:
UElevating failure to keep dogs confined or on a leash from a minor misdemeanor to a fourth-degree misdemeanor on repeat offenses.
UElevating the keeping of wild animals, such as alligators and crocodiles, which are sometimes used to protect contraband at drug houses, from a minor misdemeanor on the first offense and a fourth-degree misdemeanor on subsequent offenses, to a first-degree misdemeanor because of the danger to police and, if they escape, to the community.
UElevating vicious dog attacks in which a person is injured from a fourth-degree misdemeanor on the first offense and a third-degree misdemeanor on subsequent offenses to a first-degree misdemeanor.
Kennel regulations: The committee also heard Bill D'Avignon, city planning director, discuss a draft of revised kennel regulations that has been prepared by the city law department.
The new regulations would define a kennel as a location housing four or more adult dogs, set a three-acre minimum for properties where kennels are located, and require that a kennel be at least 100 feet from the nearest dwelling. Current city law doesn't include a definition of a kennel.
On another matter, John McNally IV, assistant city law director, said the hiring of a social worker in the police department's crisis intervention unit will require council's passage of legislation creating the position and setting a salary for it and administration of a civil service exam, and will take at least two months before someone begins work.
Mayor George McKelvey announced last week his intention to hire someone in that role after his task force on violence against women recommended it.