Monday, May 31, 2010

Great news out of Ohio

As you know, Ohio is a state long known for breed discrimination and killing dogs based on looks; not behavior. 

Last week, Ohio struck down the "inherently vicious" portion of the law.  

Ohio House strikes down "inherently vicious" designation of pit bulls

The Ohio House of Representatives this afternoon struck down the long-held designation of pit bulls as inherently vicious under Ohio law. The modification to the law was made as an amendment to House Bill 55, which proposes to modify Ohio’s animal cruelty statutes and allows for animals to be included in domestic dispute protection orders. 

Currently, pit bulls are designated as “vicious" under Ohio law, triggering various requirements for their owners, including special insurance. The amendment to eliminate the breed discriminatory provision in Ohio law passed by a vote of 86-10, and HB 55 as amended was approved 93 to 3. 

Ohio is the only state in the country to designate pit bulls as inherently vicious under state law. Both the OVMA and AVMA have long opposed breed discrimination language in law. OVMA supported the amendment to HB 55 , as well as the bill as passed. The legislation now goes to the Ohio Senate for consideration.
I was fortunate to exchange email with a fellow dog owner who lives in Ohio and has lived the nightmare.

Here is his explanation of the situation in Ohio which is helpful.

First and foremost, the reason for the recent success was due to a bill (House Bill 79) that was introduced in March 2009 by Representative Barbara Sears out of the Toledo area. This bill would, if passed, remove any and all Breed Specific language in our statewide law that claims Pit Bull dogs to be "inherently vicious" based on "breed". It appeared that this bill was dying as late as early this year, but mass  emails, letters and phone calls persisted from residents around the state that forced the bill to go to the Agriculture Committee where it was heard last month by  testimony. Still, the outlook was not that bright until the bill was amended as part of House Bill 55 which proposes to modify Ohio’s animal cruelty statutes and allows for animals to be included in domestic dispute protection orders. It passed almost unanimously and is now in the Senate. This brings great hope to finally ridding our 23 year statewide Breed Specific statute, due to the language that HB 55 offers, with or without HB 79 included. 
Along the lines of challenges to the law, there have been plenty, but a few notable recent ones include:
Hugh Smith vs Toledo, which is in appeals, but Hugh won his case from an attorney I know very well who represented him. He has 3 Cane Corso's and was stopped in Toledo walking them. Toledo (Lucas County) has an additional restriction of only allowing one Pit Bull per household and his dogs were seized, but Mr. Smith doesn't have Pit Bulls, he has Cane Corso's. AKC judges and other breed specialists were flown in from around the country to testify that his dogs were not Pit Bulls and the judge sided with Mr Smith that the ACO's were not competent enough to pick out a Pit Bull.

Another recent case is Tellings vs Toledo (do you see a pattern here - Toledo, where former dog warden Tom Skeldon used to hold office), the court also chose in favor of Mr. Tellings, but was appealed and the decision was reversed. Those are only two cases, but there has been plenty more on a local and state level.

The reason I was brought into this fight, was Lakewood, Ohio. Lakewood is the city directly west of Cleveland, where I once resided until the ban on Pit Bulls, Pit Bull "type" and Canary dogs was passed in July of 2008. Since then, there has been one case that has struck a cord with me. That is the Leonard Shelton case.

Leonard is an African American man who served his country in the military for I  believe around 20 years and settled in Lakewood after, getting a black dog named Roscoe. Because his experiences in combat, he became a changed man who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but Roscoe helps him with his illness by making him leave the house and be in public. One day, Leonard was walking Roscoe when he was stopped by a police officer who said he has a Pit Bull. The officer called the dog warden to verify and ID the dog and he confirmed his assessment. Leonard has since moved out of Lakewood, with Roscoe and is suing the city for a little less than half a million dollars. Roscoe was DNA tested and it came back that he is predominantly Glenn of Amal Terrier with traces of other words, no Pit Bull. The charges against the city range from racially profiling, harassment, among others and could make an already broke city, financially ruined. Surely jobs will be lost when the city loses this case (notice I said when and not if).

I guess the moral to this story is, you have to hit them where it hurts. Never stop challenging the powers that be when it comes to BSL, because, frankly, they have no real case. I make sure I spend my free time in public with Preston so people can see what a real Pit Bull looks like (temperament and physically). If I can change one persons mind about these (and all dogs for that matter) then I did my job for the day. These same people will call and write there legislatures and demand change. I don't know how it is in Canada, but here in the states "My vote counts" and "My dog votes". 

Very well said Jeff..
Thanks for your synopsis and I agree that we must continue to hit the towns/cities/municipalities/states/provinces and countries where it hurts. We must stand up for our rights as dog owners and educate the masses there are no bad dogs, only a few bad dog owners. A large contributing factor is a media campaign that has stretched over nearly 2 decades spewing myth and hatred against a type of dog; the notorious "pitbull".

The only way to increase public safety where dogs are concerned is to implement fair and equal treatment under the law and deal with irresponsible owners!

And for the record, we share with you in the USA, every vote counts and MY DOG VOTES!

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