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Published: Wednesday, 12/14/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

End ‘pit bull’ restrictions, Ohio urged

Rules contrary to addressing problem, veterinarian tells Senate panel

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lucas County Dog Pound warden Julie Lyle holds a pit bull named Amos, which was one of many 'pit bulls' that arrived at the pound in the last year. Lucas County Dog Pound warden Julie Lyle holds a pit bull named Amos, which was one of many 'pit bulls' that arrived at the pound in the last year.
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COLUMBUS — A veterinarian told lawmakers Tuesday that during her many years of practice, she was more fearful of potentially being bitten by miniature Dachshunds than by any so-called “pit bull” breed.

Dr. Linda Lord, who was testifying on behalf of the 2,400 veterinarians and 300 student members of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, of which she is president, urged lawmakers to end Ohio’s restrictions against “pit bulls.”

“The effective control of vicious animals is in the best interest of the state. However, current law placing restrictions on one specific type of dog is contrary to actually addressing the problem of aggressive canine behavior,” Dr. Lord, who also is associate dean for student affairs at the Ohio State University college of veterinary medicine, told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “From a veterinary medicine standpoint, the most effective animal-control laws focus on responsible and humane animal ownership and the actions of the animal. Placing arbitrary limitations on the ownership of a specific type of dog only serves to create a stigma and place undue burdens on responsible animal owners.”

House Bill 14, sponsored by state Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township), passed the House 69-29 last spring. Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills), the Senate Judiciary chairman, has tentatively scheduled a committee vote for January.

Current law defines a “vicious dog” as one that, without provocation, has killed or seriously injured a person, has killed another dog, or is of the general breed known as “pit bull.” House Bill 14 would replace that language with revised definitions of “vicious” and “dangerous” dogs and create a new lower-level classification of “nuisance dog.” None of the definitions would include breed-specific language.

Mr. Wagoner introduced three amendments to the bill Tuesday that don’t significantly change the bill’s intent, according to Ms. Sears. The first requires that at a court hearing, “the person who designated the dog as a nuisance dog, dangerous dog, or vicious dog has the burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that the dog is a nuisance dog, dangerous dog, or vicious dog.”

The second amendment would not require rabies vaccination, spaying, and neutering criteria for dangerous-dog registration if they are medically contra-indicated. Dr. Lord said she supported this amendment. The third amendment is a series of “technical, clarifying, or conforming” tweaks to the bill’s language.

Besides Dr. Lord, five witnesses testified in favor of passage of the bill that would repeal Ohio’s 24-year-old law that singles out “pit bulls” as vicious. Two others presented written testimony in favor of passage.

Duane Sanning, Darke County dog warden, said although he is in favor of passage because “the bill fixes a lot of problems” in terms of putting a due process in place for penalizing the owners of vicious and dangerous dogs, he still believes owners of “pit bulls” and “pit bull” mixes should continue to be required to carry liability insurance and to keep the dog in restrictive enclosures.

Mr. Sanning said he believes it should continue to be up to the dog warden of each county to determine whether a dog falls into the “pit bull” or “pit bull” mix category.

Geauga County Dog Warden Matt Granito, president of the Ohio Dog Warden’s Association, said that although the group has some members who don’t support the proposed law, the majority recognize the benefits of putting more responsibility on dog owners, no matter what breed of dog they own.

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



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