A new day for Ohio's pit bulls

A spokesperson for Best Friends Animal Society says passage of Ohio House Bill 14, which removes pit bulls from the state’s definition of vicious dogs, signals a new day for pit bulls and other canines who resemble pit bulls.

HB 14 passed

On January 31, 2012, the bill passed favorably out of the Senate by a vote of 27-5, and will go back to the House for concurrence. The bill passed the House last summer.

"We appreciate the support of the Ohio County Dog Wardens, the County Commissioners' Association of Ohio, the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates and countless other animal welfare groups, dog-loving individuals and veterinarians whose efforts resulted in the bill’s successful passage," said Ledy VanKavage, senior legislative analyst for Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society, which has been supporting the bill.

"When HB 14 is signed into law, it will represent a true victory for Ohio dogs and their people, overturning an archaic law that caused severe hardship to thousands of responsible owners of entirely friendly, properly supervised, well-socialized pets," she said.

Breed discrimination ended

Pitbull in the flowers
A new day for Ohio pit bulls

Ohio has been the only state in the country to automatically declare a dog vicious based solely on appearance, without considering behavior. Any pit-bull-type dog or any dog resembling a pit bull terrier fell under the law. HB 14 removes the breed-discriminatory designation and strengthens the state’s dangerous dog laws so that they more correctly target reckless owners and dangerous dogs instead of innocent pets.

VanKavage, nationally respected expert on pit bulls and reckless owner/dangerous dog legislation, testified twice in 2011 before the Ohio legislature encouraging the repeal of the breed discriminatory law.

A petition at Change.org garnered nearly 18,000 signatures in favor of repealing the law.

Legendary singer/songwriter Willie Nelson, a spokesperson for Best Friends, sent a letter to Ohio legislators last November urging the "favorable and quick" passage of Ohio HB 14. Actress and activist Maggie Q also urged passage of HB 14 through a YouTube video. And actor Ian Somerhalder used Twitter to urge his fans to voice their support for the bill by sending letters and signing the petition.

High cost of breed-discriminatory laws

Breed-discriminatory laws are expensive and have been proven ineffective in protecting the public. According to economic research firm John Dunham and Associates, it cost Ohioans more than $17 million a year to enforce the old law. In these tough economic times, laws that waste precious taxpayer dollars while failing to reduce dog bites are tragically misguided.

Learn more about cost of discriminatory laws against dogs

A better approach

Ohio dog wardens will now be able to focus their efforts on dangerous dogs running at large, not targeting people’s pets who are doing nothing more than being dogs with a certain appearance.

With the bill’s passage, Ohio joins the many states with laws that allow all dogs to be evaluated and treated as individuals and permit local jurisdictions the authority to hold reckless owners accountable for the behavior of their dogs.

Best Friends' pit bull initiatives

Best Friends Animal Society works to help pit bulls through its national pit bull initiatives, which battle everything from these dogs’ sensationalized reputation to legislation designed to bring about their extinction. The initiatives’ goal is to end discrimination against all dogs — because they are individuals and should be treated as such.