Good news for dogs in Lakewood, Ohio, and the people who love them
After a decade, the city of Lakewood, Ohio, has finally repealed its breed-discriminatory pit bull ban and replaced it with a safety-focused dangerous dog ordinance that treats all dogs as individuals. The city council’s unanimous 7-0 vote took place on Monday night, following heartfelt remarks both by those who advocated for the repeal and the council members who supported it. Congratulations to the animal advocates, city council and dogs of Lakewood!
Tenacious animal advocates have been working toward a repeal of Lakewood’s pit bull ban since the day it was enacted. Their efforts were revitalized in large part thanks to a pet dog named Charlie. Despite an assurance from Lakewood animal control that their new rescued dog would be welcome in the community, Charlie’s family faced institutional discrimination and were ordered to remove him from city limits this past September. This resulted in a lawsuit (in which Best Friends Animal Society filed an amicus curiae brief) and the “I’m with Charlie” movement spread throughout Lakewood.
Lakewood is the third Ohio city to repeal its breed-discriminatory ordinance in recent months, following Mansfield and Reynoldsburg. Ohio, the only state that once viewed a type of dog as “vicious,” repealed its statewide discrimination in 2012. This has spawned lawsuits in numerous Ohio cities that fail to follow the comprehensive breed-neutral general law. Charlie’s case, and Lakewood’s discriminatory dog law, was extremely similar to cases recently heard in the fifth and third district courts of appeals in Ohio. In both of those cases, the cities of Reynoldsburg and Lima were found to have dangerous dog laws that conflicted with Ohio state law, and were therefore unenforceable. The Ohio courts continue to make clear that breed-discriminatory laws have no place in this state, and that the trend is breed-neutral laws that focus on the behavior of the individual dog and the individual owner.
Unfortunately, one aspect of Lakewood’s new ordinance could have unintended consequences: Beginning six months from now, every single dog “owner, keeper or harborer” must maintain liability insurance in an amount no less than $10,000. With approximately 1.5 million homeless pets dying in our nation’s animal shelters every year, we should be working to make pet ownership accessible and affordable, and this obstructive insurance requirement is contrary to that goal. Nor do we have any reason to believe that this requirement will be effective in furthering the goal of having a safe and humane community.
We can count on one thing, though: The Lakewood community will not be complacent if the new insurance requirement has a disparate impact, and the city council has vowed to stay engaged as well. As one city councilman remarked, “You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up.”
Victories like Lakewood’s are happening all across the nation, thanks to local advocates like you who recognize that politics is not a spectator sport. In 2018 alone, Best Friends’ advocacy subscribers have helped to repeal breed-discriminatory ordinances in six different communities, and are working to increase the number of states (currently 21) that prohibit such policies. To ensure that you are kept in the loop about lifesaving legislation in your community, please sign up for our action alerts.
Chief mission officer
Best Friends Animal Society