Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mansfield woman to reclaim pit bulls after dispute with city

MANSFIELD — A 41-year-old city woman accused of having three pit bulls in her home will be allowed to reclaim the dogs.

Anissa Craft of 416 W. Fourth St. was charged with three counts of having a vicious dog within city limits after authorities raided her house on Dec. 15. They removed four dogs, one of which was redeemed by Craft’s mother. The other three have been at the Richland County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center since the raid.

Craft will have to pay boarding fees, which amounted to $750 as of Thursday. The cost is $30 per dog on the first day and $10 each day thereafter.

Defense attorney John O’Donnell negotiated Thursday with the city law director’s office for the release of the dogs in lieu of a hearing before Mansfield Municipal Judge Jeff Payton.

“Two days afterward (when Craft went to the shelter), they would have been only $40 apiece, but they wouldn’t give them to her,” O’Donnell said.

Dog Warden Dave Jordan explained why he kept the dogs.

“I had every intention and legal right to hold the dogs as evidence until the court date,” he said.

Mansfield’s city code banned “vicious and dangerous” dogs in October 1988, when the American pit bull, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire terrier and mixed breeds that have elements of these terriers were specified as illegal within city limits.

Having a banned dog within city limits is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Subsequent violations carry a fourth-degree felony charge and possible penalties of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Jordan said he later reconsidered and sent a certified letter to Craft and her mother telling them they could redeem the dogs at any time.

“I didn’t want to create a hardship,” he said.

The dogs normally stay with Craft’s mother, who lives in the county. Pit bulls are allowed in the county if the owner has liability insurance.

“When Mom goes away, the dogs have to come to me,” Craft said. “They have been at my house more than at hers, but they never stay.”

Jordan said pit bulls are not allowed in the city any time. The dog warden said a neighbor complained of Craft’s pit bulls, leading him to obtain a search warrant.

Craft claims Jordan is personally targeting her.

“When Dave became a deputy dog warden, there was a big dispute about my American Staffordshire terrier,” she said. “From that day on, it has been on and popping with Dave Jordan and me. He hates me, and I hate him.

“He thinks he can do anything he wants because he’s the dog warden. I want my freaking dogs back.”

Jordan discounted Craft’s claims.

“It’s never been personal,” he said. “My job is to protect people and property. If she would stop breaking the law, she would never see me.”

O’Donnell said he expected the case to be resolved without going to trial.

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