Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Review sought of Toledo's dog laws, policies

A trio of Toledo City Councilmen proposed yesterday a new task force of citizens and animal experts to re-examine all city laws and policies related to dogs.

The Toledo Dog Policy Advisory Task Force would be similar to the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee, a panel formed a year ago to review the practices of Dog Warden Tom Skeldon.

While the dog warden serves the county, his office enforces local and state laws and has a contract with Toledo, which paid $146,882 to the dog warden's office last year.

Democrats Joe McNamara and Steven Steel and Republican Rob Ludeman - all dog owners - said they will co-sponsor legislation to create the panel and seek members of the community to join it.

The panel's tasks would likely include reviewing the city's relationship with the dog warden office and examining the city's law for "vicious dogs," which Mr. McNamara feels inappropriately singles out "pit bulls" and overlooks bad behavior of other dogs.

"I think there are dangerous dogs who are not 'pit bulls,' and I think there are 'pit bulls' who are not dangerous dogs," Mr. McNamara said. "Let's bring the experts in who are familiar with these issues and have them take a look at everything."

The task-force proposal follows an earlier effort by Mr. McNamara to have the county committee evaluate the city's "vicious dogs" law. However, committee members turned down his request because it fell outside the scope of their county-focused mission, Chairman Steve Serchuk said.

"Pit bull" is a generic descriptive term for a dog trained to fight and can refer to multiple breeds, including the American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, and other mix breeds determined to be "pit bulls" by Mr. Skeldon.

The city's vicious dogs law restricts people to owning only one "pit bull," and requires that they keep the animal leashed and muzzled when it's away from home. Violators can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor.

In 2007, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Ohio's vicious-dog law, as well as Toledo's companion ordinance.

The task-force proposal could be put to a council vote this month. Mr. Steel said the task force would be asked to evaluate whether it remains prudent for Toledo law to single-out specific types of breeds.

"We are having them look at the entire issue of breed-specific legislation," Mr. Steel said. "These are the issues which we're not the experts in."

The councilmen said they want to explore adding new work shifts for dog warden deputies using current staff to cut down on overtime billing.

Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop, a critic of the dog warden's practices, applauded the councilmen's efforts.

"I think [their task force] dovetails with what's going on at the county level to modernize the dog warden's department and bring it into the 21st century," Mr. Konop said.

Mr. Ludeman, who is also a member of the county panel, said he considers sensible dog policies to be a quality-of-life issue for many people and families. Although Mr. Ludeman said he does not plan to join the task force himself, other members of the county group would be welcome to join the city's.

Those interested in joining the city's advisory task force can e-mail Mr. Steel at steven.steel@toledo.oh.gov or send a letter to his attention to One Government Center, 640 Jackson Suite 2200, Toledo, OH, 43604.

Mr. Skeldon is to formally retire Jan. 31. His successor has not been named.

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