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Published: Tuesday, 7/16/2013 - Updated: 12 months ago

‘Pit bulls’ still vicious under Swanton dog ordinance

Bailey, a mixed-breed, at center of controversy

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tyler Bork, 10, and his sister Kayla Bork, 5, play with their pit bull "Bailey" Swanton, Ohio. Tyler Bork, 10, and his sister Kayla Bork, 5, play with their pit bull "Bailey" Swanton, Ohio.
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SWANTON — Despite the state’s move away from breed-specific dog laws, the village of Swanton has reviewed its dog ordinance and decided not to change language that considers all “pit bull”-type dogs to be inherently vicious.

“The Village of Swanton has conducted a legal review of our existing dog regulations, and this research has indicated these ordinances are legal and constitutional in the state of Ohio,” said Swanton Administrator Jon Gochenour. “As a result, the village of Swanton will continue to enforce all of our existing regulations in regard to dogs.”

Bailey, a mixed-breed dog adopted by a Swanton family, is an example of a pet caught in the middle of the controversy. The village said that under its ordinance, the dog has to be registered with the police department and faces other requirements, including muzzling in public.

Acting Fulton County Dog Warden Brian Banister visited Tim Bork’s home June 13 and told him the dog is likely a Brazilian mastiff mix, also known as a Fila Brasileiro, and he would consider her to be a “pit bull”-type dog.

However, Swanton’s ordinance states, “Vicious dog has the same meaning as set forth in ORC 955.11 and shall include in addition any breed of dog that is commonly known as a ‘pit bull dog.’ This includes any Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, or American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog, or mixed breed of dog which contains, as an element of its breeding, the breed of Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier or American Staffordshire terrier, and the Perro De Canario, aka the Canary Dog.”

Because Fila Brasileiro is not mentioned in the language of the ordinance, Mr. Bork said he has decided not to register the dog.

A DNA test commissioned by The Blade of Bailey shows she is actually a mix of American bulldog, Rottweiler, American Staffordshire terrier, black and tan coonhound, Coton de Tulear, bull terrier, Neapolitan mastiff, and miniature pinscher. She is less than 50 percent “pit bull,” which is the standard that past Ohio court cases have used in determining whether a dog is a “pit bull”-type.

An Ohio dog advocacy group is challenging the village’s dog ordinance, saying it is vague and puts an undue burden on its dog-owning residents.

The Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates has started a petition drive at http://tol.bz/191a2qY to urge the village to revise its dog laws. It has more than 775 signatures.

“Registration is an archaic and ineffective way of handling dog bites in the community,” said Jean Keating, co-founder of the coalition, who also asked the village to meet with her group to discuss changing the laws. “The new state law — which is breed neutral — targets reckless dog owners and actually prevents bites before they happen by identifying potentially dangerous dogs based on their behavior.”

Ms. Keating said the wording, “mixed breed of dog which contains, as an element of its breeding” is vague.

Ohio’s dangerous and vicious dog law, which was revised after the passage of House Bill 14, went into effect in May, 2012. Introduced by state Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township), it defines a vicious dog as one that, without provocation, has killed or caused serious injury to any person. Appearance is no longer mentioned in any section of law, which focuses on behavior.

Ms. Keating asked for a list of dogs registered as “vicious” with the village. The village supplied her with one registration. The requirement for registration of vicious dogs, including all “pit bull”-type dogs, has been in effect since 2010.

She also requested dog bite reports from 2011 through June, 2013. Two dog bites were reported in 2011, three in 2012, and one so far in 2013. None of the breeds identified in the reports was a “pit bull”-type dog.

Mr. Banister has said he doesn’t have the authority to enforce Swanton’s ordinance. “That's up to their police department,” he said. “I simply give my opinion on if it’s a ‘pit bull’-type dog or not.”

Mr. Bork said the ball is in the village of Swanton’s court regarding whether anything further is done regarding Bailey.

The dog passed her Canine Good Citizen test Thursday, which was administered by Jay Barman, a local dog trainer who works with Toledo’s PETBull project, through which Bailey took obedience classes.

“Bailey did great. She passed with flying colors,” Mr. Barman said.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066 or @TanyaIrwin.



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