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OH: Wauseon moves to delete vicious label on ‘pit bulls’

Discussion in 'Breed Specific Legislation' started by Vicki, Nov 23, 2014.

  1. Vicki

    Vicki Administrator Administrator

    Published: Sunday, 11/23/2014 - Updated: 19 seconds ago

    Wauseon moves to delete vicious label on ‘pit bulls’
    Proposal in line with state law

    WAUSEON — A Fulton County community is taking steps to remove breed-specific language from its vicious dog ordinance.

    Wauseon City Council last week passed, with a 5-1 vote, the first reading of an ordinance that would remove an automatic designation of “pit bulls†as vicious.

    The ordinance must pass two more readings, and, after a mandatory 30-day hold, would not take effect until at least February.

    Councilman Martin Estrada led the effort after a number of individuals and groups approached him. He said the change would bring the city’s code in line with the state of Ohio, which removed breed-specific language in 2012.

    “It’s good for everybody to adhere to the state rules,†Mr. Estrada said. “If a dog is vicious or has issues, it’s still deemed vicious no matter what breed it is.â€

    Mr. Estrada, who does not own dogs, said city officials studying the proposed change before bringing it to the council focused on research and facts, keeping personal opinions about “pit bulls†and dogs in general aside in the interest of determining what was best for the city and its residents’ safety.

    “I don’t want it to be personal,†he said. “I wanted it to be as statistical as possible. I had a lot of help.â€

    The Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, which played a strong role in changing the state code, provided Mr. Estrada with some information, research, and contacts.

    “He did a lot of research on his own and was really looking for the facts,†Jean Keating, the coalition’s executive director, said. “He’s the one that came to the conclusion that breed-discriminatory ordinances are useless. ... It’s all emotion-based. There is no factual data behind those ordinances.â€

    Mr. Estrada said the crux of the matter for the city was defining what constituted a “pit bull†or “pit bull†mix. He said there is no one widely accepted way to determine whether a dog is or is not a “pit bullâ€-type dog.

    Swanton, which has a similar ordinance against “pit bulls,†in April dropped a case against a dog owner who did not register his mixed-breed dog as vicious because the village could not prove the dog fit the parameters of a “pit bull†as the ordinance defined.

    Ms. Keating said the problem of identifying a dog’s breed is exactly why breed-specific ordinances are tough and costly to enforce, create a false sense of security, and are ultimately ineffective. She said far more communities are removing breed-specific laws than creating them.

    “Over the last couple of years, they have fallen one by one by one,†she said.

    What can be definitively determined is a dog’s behavior and whether the owner is being responsible and following the laws, she added.

    Irresponsible owners “endanger everyone’s safety in a community, no matter what kind of dog they own,†Ms. Keating said.

    Wauseon Councilman Rick Frey, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he witnessed a “pit bull†puppy chase his daughter’s friend on her bicycle, and the girl barely escaped inside a home.

    Mr. Frey said he called police, who summoned the dog warden and removed the mother dog and her puppies, whom Mr. Frey said were all vicious.

    “I would rather be attempting to get a mountain lion or a black bear versus that dog,†he said. “It left a pretty vivid image in my mind that I can’t get rid of.â€

    Mr. Frey said he thinks including “pit bull†restrictions in city code “gives the police department one more tool to deal with vicious dogs.â€

    Council President Heather Kost said she voted for the change because the city needs to focus on the individual dog and its behavior, not its breed.

    “They’re just like people with different temperaments, different tolerances, different personalities,†Ms. Kost said. “I think we need to look at it on a case-by-case basis and not as a blanket on a breed. ... We need to look at responsible ownership.â€

    Jon Gochenour, village administrator in Swanton, said the village is reviewing its dog ordinance but has not yet decided one way or another.

    He said the village’s legal counsel will make a recommendation at an undetermined future meeting.

    A grass-roots group that is challenging a Fulton County policy that prohibits “pit bulls†from being adopted from or transferred out of the county dog pound — essentially mandating they be killed if not claimed by an owner — also helped provide some information to Wauseon officials. Carol Dopp, co-organizer of Fulton County No Kill, said the group is pleased that Wauseon is seeking to change its law.

    “What it’s boiling down to is why would you have an ordinance you can’t defend against a challenge?†Ms. Dopp said. “We are happy, but we have to continue forward with educating people on the facts.â€

    Brian Banister, the dog warden in Fulton County, declined to comment.

    Because the proposed ordinance must pass two more readings before it becomes official, the coalition and Fulton County No Kill are encouraging Wauseon residents to contact their council members to express their opinions.

    If the ordinance does become law, it could be used as an example in the area.

    “It’s a great opportunity,†Ms. Keating said. “We need to use it to start talking about what makes a community safe or unsafe. The more we can educate people about dog safet, the fewer people are going to be hurt.â€

    Wauseon moves to delete vicious label on ‘pit bulls’ - Toledo Blade

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