Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Wisdom and pit bulls

ASK the owner of a pit bull if he'd be willing to settle for a cocker spaniel, and he is likely to roar with laughter. Pit bulls are dangerous, and that's the attraction. The Ohio Supreme Court understands that, and had the wisdom to unanimously rule that the Toledo ordinance and state laws targeting the dogs as inherently vicious are constitutional.

As a breed, pit bulls strike fear in the hearts of ordinary people. Tom Skeldon, the Lucas County dog warden had them in mind when he requested protective vests for his employees. It's the reason for the city ordinance allowing only one pit bull per household, requiring that dangerous dogs be kept muzzled or confined when away from home, and mandating pit-bull owners to carry special liability insurance.

The Supreme Court sensibly reversed a 6th District Court of Appeals ruling that found the city's ordinance to be vague and violated owners' constitutional right to show that their dogs are not vicious. The appellate court had overturned a Toledo Municipal Court ruling that said Toledo's experience with the dogs proved they are dangerous.

Anybody who keeps pit bulls would have a hard time persuading authorities that they are simply family pets, the argument owners usually make. There's no getting around the fact that the animals are bred to aggressively bite, hold, and shake. In one 1999 incident, a pit bull grabbed a 6-year-old boy's cat and killed it, then turned and attacked the child.

Mr. Skeldon now wants to ask Toledo City Council to enact mandatory spaying and neutering for pit bulls, a wise plan. He can quickly tell the difference between pit-bull owners who honestly have the dogs as pets and those who want them as breeding stock.

The latter strongly resist any suggestion that their dogs be "fixed."

This case may not be over. Paul Tellings, who lost the case, says he intends to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, backed by the American Canine Foundation. That's his right. But we can only hope that the highest court in the land would have as much wisdom in this case as Ohio's Supreme Court.

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