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Published: Thursday, 4/1/2010

Panel labors over vicious dogs' behavioral traits


A citizen-led committee continued to work yesterday on crafting a new definition of what a "vicious dog" is in Toledo, and how such dogs and their owners should be treated.

Members of the county's Dog Warden Advisory Committee are looking to expand the current definition in the city's law books to encompass any breed - not merely "pit bulls." They met yesterday to brainstorm over proposed revisions to be forwarded later to Toledo City Council for approval.

"We're trying to address behavior - not breed," said committee Chairman Steve Serchuk, "There are a lot of dangerous, vicious dogs of multiple breeds."

State law calls a dog vicious if it does any one of a number of bad things, such as kill a person or cause serious injury. Ohio law is also the only state that singles out "pit bulls" as inherently vicious regardless of behavior.

But Toledo's "vicious dogs law" places various limitations on only

"pit bull" or "pit bull"-mix dogs.

There are no such restrictions for dogs in Toledo that bite or attack. The committee is looking to change that omission in the interest of public safety.

"By identifying dangerous dogs, you're hoping to stave off bites," said Dale Emch, committee member.

A January decision by Toledo Municipal Court Judge Michael Goulding found the local law's restrictions on "pit bulls" and mixes to be unconstitutional. However, city officials are appealing that decision based on the judge's interpretation of home-rule doctrine.

After 90 minutes of discussion and casual debate yesterday afternoon, advisory committee members agreed to continue their work at another meeting.

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