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Dog law heading to council

After months of research, crafting, and debate, a proposed Toledo law governing dogs and their owners will come before City Council Tuesday.

Councilmen will vote on repealing the city's old "vicious dogs" law that targeted "pit bulls" and "pit bull" mixes - ruled unconstitutional by Toledo Municipal Court Judge Michael Goulding in January - and replacing it with a law intended to promote responsibility among dog owners and change the scope of dogs considered to be dangerous.

The new law was written based on recommendations compiled by the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee at the request of Toledo Mayor Mike Bell in February.

The advisory committee's recommendations were presented to City Council in August, and those same recommendations largely will be what council considers tomorrow with a few exceptions.

Councilman Rob Ludeman will introduce an amendment raising the limit of time a dog can be tethered outside from 15 minutes to one hour. Mr. Ludeman said a dog can be tethered even longer if the pet's owner can see it and it's not a danger or nuisance to neighbors, but it may not be tied up outside at all if its owner is not home.

"This will make the law more friendly for responsible dog owners and further gives us the ability to address irresponsible dog owners," said Mr. Ludeman, who is also a part of the dog warden advisory committee.

Julie Lyle, the Lucas County dog warden who in the past has expressed concerns about the pending dog legislation, said Mr. Ludeman's amendment will make the law "less enforceable but easier for owners to meet its requirements."

"I likely wasn't going to send my deputies out to watch for dogs tethered up for 15 minutes, and I'm certainly not going to do that for an hour," Ms. Lyle said.

Ms. Lyle said the county dog warden's contract with the city has not been changed for her to enforce the new law and would have to be altered if council does indeed pass the proposed ordinance tomorrow.

The city's old legislation placed added restrictions on "pit bulls," including limiting ownership to one "pit bull" and requiring that "pit bulls" be leashed and muzzled when off owners' property. The new proposal would apply a set of restrictions to misbehaving dogs of any breed, not just "pit bulls."

Highlights of the new ordinance coming before council include:

•An escalating scale of fines for unprovoked dog bites. Penalties would rise from $150 to $500 to $1,000 and could include mandatory pet ownership classes or community service with an animal welfare organization.

•New "level one" and "level two" threat classifications for nuisance and dangerous dogs.

•Restrictions against leaving a dog unattended for more than 24 hours.

•Mandatory spay or neuter surgery at the owner's expense for dogs caught running at large more than once.

•The ability to seize the dogs of owners deemed reckless.

"There are a lot of great ideas in there, but there are a lot of limitations too," Ms. Lyle said.

City Council is also considering the repeal of penalties for killing or injuring animals based on their monetary value and replacing them with a uniform, first-degree misdemeanor charge for the killing or injuring of any domestic or farm animal.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6559.

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