Born bad or just born in the wrong state?

Pit-bull terrier type dogs make loving and loyal companionsUnder current Ohio law, pit bull puppies are deemed to be vicious dogs as soon as they are born.

The Ohio law is notoriously unjust, but help is on the way. The Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates and Best Friends are spearheading the campaign to pass Ohio HB 14, which would repeal the only statewide breed-discriminatory law in the nation.

Ledy VanKavage, Best Friends’ senior legislative analyst and a long-time pit bull advocate, testified last week before the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee. She advised committee members, “Twelve states actually prohibit canine profiling. They enacted their provisions after Ohio passed its breed-discriminatory law. Why? Their research showed that canine profiling is not only expensive, but it’s ineffective in protecting the public.”

Ledy also pointed out that Ohio’s breed-discriminatory law costs Ohio taxpayers more than $17 million annually to enforce. Ouch! That’s a lot of money. 

It’s actually a lot worse than that. The irony of all such breed-specific legislation is that it is anything but specific. In Ohio, as elsewhere, the breed of your dog is not determined by her genetic heritage, but by the opinion of a dogcatcher — and that’s scary. In a recent study of shelter workers’ ability to accurately identify breeds of dogs visually matched against a DNA test, shelter workers failed miserably, with a score of 25 out of 100. Any dog that a dog warden (Ohio lingo for an animal control officer) decides upon a visual inspection could be a pit mix — that is to say, anything with a blocky head and a short coat, like maybe a boxer/Lab mix — can be declared a vicious dog and easily end up on the wrong end of a needle. Breed-specific?Pit-bull terrier type dog with student from Safe Humane Chicago

According to Jean Keating of the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, “Pit bull owners have no due process rights and as such, many non-pit-bulls have been killed because they looked like pit bulls.”

And pity the poor pit who enters an Ohio shelter. Because pit bulls are deemed vicious, state law discourages their adoption from public shelters. It is certain death for pit bulls in most shelters and pounds across the state. The Ohio law requires owners to purchase liability coverage and maintain locked fenced yards or keep their pit bull or pit-bull-looking dog confined in a locked pen. Owners may take them off their property on a leash only if it is six feet or shorter and the dog is controlled by a person of suitable age and size. This law has led to the deaths of thousands of family pets.

HB 14 needs to be passed — and we need your help to do it, especially if you live in Ohio. The bill was introduced by Representative Barbara Sears (R-Lucas County) but is drawing strongly bipartisan support.

Francis Battista