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February 29, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Vicous dog law unfair to pit bulls

Ohio is the number one worst state to travel with your dogs.

At least if you are a pit bull owner. According to understand-a-bull.com, when taking into consideration breed specific legislation and “laws allowing for confiscation and destruction of dogs by breed,” Ohio is the least dog friendly place in the nation.

This doesn’t surprise me. Ohio earned this slap in the face by allowing its vicious dog law in Section 955.11 to define a vicious dog as any dog that has killed another dog, caused injury to a person, or “belongs to a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog.”

This kind of breed specific legislation is as unconstitutional as it is ignorant.

These are laws bred from fear and misunderstanding. As a matter of fact, the definition of a pit bull is so contested that Ohio law is condemning much more than just pit bulls.

According to the American Pit Bull Registry, the United Kennel Club and realpitbull.com, there are three breeds of dog that can be officially recognized as “pit bull.” They are the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier.

But Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon has his own definition of a pit bull, one which includes American bull dogs. The Ohio Attorney General says “Any individual charged with the enforcement of Ohio Revised Code 955.11 and 955.22 is qualified to identify pit bull dogs in order to enforce the provisions, provided such identification is reasonable.” This means Skeldon’s definition, while inherently incorrect as an American Bulldog is not, by very definition, a pit bull, will stand up in court.

The inability to clearly define dog breeds, especially in a mixed breed animal, is one of the many reasons breed specific legislation (BSL) is just a form of prejudice.

In a phone interview with Skeldon, he described a typical “pit bull dog” to me. Physical characteristics of pit bulls included “well-muscled, short-haired, minimal fat dogs, often times big jawed. They are very intense animals with a whip-like tail.”

Congratulations, Mr. Skeldon, you’ve just identified about 20 different breeds of dog. To speculate, it would be those characteristics that would fit at least 20 of the 24 dogs shown on pitbullsontheweb.com under their game “Find the Bull.” This site picked 25 dogs (including one American Pit Bull) from breeder Web sites, all from different breeds and made the now widely used test to see if you can correctly identify a pit bull.

The site seems silly, but it makes an important point: “There are 20+ breeds that are commonly incorrectly identified as pit bulls.” And these dogs are purebreds, which does not include the millions of mixed breed dogs and mutts which can only have their origins guessed.

What about those dogs? Well, according to Skeldon “if it’s a dog that’s questionable, we go on what it looks like. If it looks like a pit bull then we treat it as such.”

The Humane Society of the United States has taken a stand against BSL, along with animal advocacy groups, insisting that we “punish the deed, not the breed.” This stance encourages law enforcement to punish the owners of vicious dogs, not assume that because one dog is vicious, the entire breed is dangerous.

Using the logic of those who support BSL would mean that all pit bulls would have to be dangerous. So, what about the pit bull who lives a full, happy and non-violent life with his family? Is this a natural anomaly? Or perhaps it’s proof that BSL isn’t an accurate way to prevent dog attacks.

What is happening in Lucas County is a veritable genocide of pit bulls. Last year alone, Skeldon says the Dog Warden’s office seized 998 pit bulls. Some of these dogs may not even have been dangerous. Just like Paul Tellings dogs weren’t dangerous.

In 2005, the Toledo man was reported for having more than one “pit bull type dog,” an action that is illegal under the section of Toledo’s ordinance declaring it unlawful for any person to own more than one vicious dog. Of his three dogs, Telling was allowed to keep one. One he was able to give away and the third was seized and killed by the Lucas County Dog Warden. These actions are inexcusable.

The only good to come of this is the lawsuit filed by Tellings against the city of Toledo. A state appellate court struck down the ordinance in May of last year, but the City of Toledo is seeking another appeal. The Ohio Supreme Court has announced it will hear oral arguments in the case (no. 2006-0690) next Wednesday, April 4. In the meantime, however, Toledo has been given permission to continue enforcing the law.

We can only hope that the justices of the Ohio Supreme Court will see the problems inherent in BSL and put a stop to it in the state of Ohio.

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