CINCINNATI -- People pushing for stronger laws that hold irresponsible pet owners accountable took to Cincinnati's streets Tuesday evening in a walk that drew hundreds.
The Cincinnati Pit Crew (CPC) , a non-profit that seeks to create compassion for defamed dogs, lead the way Tuesday in a walk that's part of the organization's goal - to engage "in activities through which the positive image and reputation of discriminated dogs are restored through community outreach, educational programming and rescue efforts."
CPC's Responsible "Pit Bull" Dog Ownership Walk began at 6 p.m. The organization hopes the event will show members of city council and Mayor John Cranley that irresponsible dog owners should follow strict ordinances and obey tougher laws. CPC believes people who fail to properly care for their animals should be punished, according to co-founder Katy Blanton.
"As the reputation and truth about pit bulls is starting to creep into media and people are learning about this breed, peoples' eyes are opening to what kind of family pet these dogs can be," Blanton said. "I think the more positive press and exposure and presence in community we have people will start to see it from our side."
The first steps took off from the gazebo at Washington Park, and continued along Elm Street to 5th Street, by Fountain Square to Main Street, then north to the corner of 12th and Main streets, where a gathering took place at Neon's Unplugged.
Marchers spread their message for City Hall every step of the way - that dog owners are at fault for their animals' actions.
"I think people need to start looking deeper and recognizing that the owners are responsible for the behavior of their dog," Blanton said. "It's really the owner's responsibilty to take care of the dog and make sure the dog is a productive member of society."
Tarah Berning found her pit bull, Gabriel, in a manger two days before Christmas. He was underweight and abandoned.
"We were like all right we're gonna keep him, we had to, we fell in love with him," she told WCPO reporter Amy Wadas. "I think that pit bulls get a bad rep. We train police dogs and nobody is afraid of them or tries to ban them, you know, it's the same thing. If we're responsible with them and we treat them good, they're gonna treat us good."
Earlier Tuesday morning, Blanton said she was excited that so many people were expected to take part in the walk, which would help support CPC's mission.
“It’s kind of sad it takes an event like this to have us stand together," she said. "It highlights the need to have stronger laws against people who own and breed dogs for the purpose of becoming guard dogs.”
The walk trails the indictment of two Westwood pit bull owners after their dogs attacked 6-year-old Zainabou Drame while she was playing on the sidewalk of Aquadale Lane on June 4. Police found two pit bulls mauling Drame in front of her home , then reacted quickly and compassionately to keep her alive until paramedics could arrive.
When officers showed up, the dogs turned on them. Within seconds, the policemen shot and killed the dogs.
The little girl's next door neighbors, Zontae Irby and Volores White, used the pit bulls to guard a criminal operation, police said.
"These dogs were owned by individuals that were operating a drug trafficking operation right there on the street," Cincinnati Assistant Police Chief James Whalen said. "We're trying to look at that from a creative viewpoint to see if there's an appropriate criminal charge that could hold them accountable for (the attack)."
If convicted of all charges, Irby faces the possibility of eight-and-a-half years in prison. White could spend up to two years behind bars. She is allowed to live at home, without pets, until her trial begins .
Drame remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday evening, her grandfather said. Her third surgery is scheduled for Thursday.
The CPC posted on its Facebook page that a benefit fund is set up to help the girl's family with her medical costs:
A benefit fund has been established to assist Zainabou Drame's family with her medical costs. Ms. Drame is the 6-year old girl injured in the dog attack in Westwood on June 4, 2014. The fund has been set up with Fifth Third Bank and donations can be made directly to all Fifth Third Bank in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky bank locations.
CPC will be collecting donations for this fund at the CPC walk on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Cash or checks can be donated. Please make checks payable to the "Zainabou Drame Benefit Fund." CPC will deposit all funds donated to Fifth Third Bank on the day following the event. Donations can be made to any Fifth Third branch on an ongoing basis.
“Once we decide on a close date on the account we will release the funds directly to the family,” said Blanton.