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Published: Saturday, 8/14/2004

Pit bull owner files appeal in hope of ending breed-specific legislation

A Toledo man found guilty last month of violating Toledo's vicious-dog ordinance has appealed his case, as expected, and a national organization fighting against breed-specific legislation is picking up most of the tab.

"It's a stepping-stone to where this needs to be," Paul Tellings, Sr., said of his case.

Mr. Tellings appealed a Toledo Municipal Court decision in which Judge Francis X. Gorman ruled that Mr. Tellings had violated the city's vicious-dog ordinance because he owned more than one pit bull and had no insurance for his dogs.

Pit bulls are the only breed presumed vicious under state law and Toledo Municipal Code. Owners in Toledo are subject to certain restrictions and must carry extra liability insurance.

Mr. Tellings argued that the law is unfair.

Judge Gorman upheld the law, but he said individual owners could ask the court to determine if their pit bull is not vicious, thereby relieving them of the extra responsibilities of owning a vicious dog.

Mr. Tellings, who said his dogs were family pets, said he could have simply asked the judge to deem the dogs not dangerous. Pleading no contest to the charges meant a $275 fine, but also the ability to ask a higher court to address the laws.

The fines will be covered by the American Canine Foundation, a group that has fought breed-specific legislation across the country. It argues that tougher animal cruelty laws are a better deterrent to dogfighting and other illegal activities than banning or limiting certain breeds.

Mr. Tellings "was noble enough to take this to the next step," said Glen Bui, vice president for the association. "It's the least we can do."

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