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Pound to adopt out 'pit bulls' to public

  • Pit-adoptions

    Katy Shepler holds her six month old dog Scooter as The Lucas County Pit Crew hosts a reunion at the Lucas County Dog Warden office this past December.

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  • Carol-Contrada

    Carol Contrada

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    Tina Skeldon Wozniak

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Carol-Contrada

Carol Contrada

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Lucas County will begin adopting out “pit bull”-type dogs directly to the public within 90 days, according to county Commissioner Carol Contrada.

The impetus is the removal of naming “pit bulls” as inherently dangerous dogs in the state’s dangerous-dog law. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Ohio House Wednesday and is headed for Gov. John Kasich’s signature.

Mrs. Contrada said Dog Warden Julie Lyle is “ahead of the curve” and already has protocols prepared for how the pound will handle adopting out “pit bull” mixes. Currently, the pound transfers them to the Toledo Area Humane Society and other area rescue groups, but does not put them up for adoption directly.

There are certain changes in procedures that will have to be implemented at the pound, she said.

“There will be protocols put in place as they ramp up to making the change,” Mrs. Contrada said. “Ms. Lyle is already preparing how she will adopt out ‘pit bull’-type dogs.”

Pete Gerken, chairman of the board of county commissioners, and Ms. Lyle on Wednesday were less forthcoming about the pound’s plan to adopt out “pit bulls.” Mr. Gerken said that the county would follow the state law, but the new law does not specify that “pit bulls” have to be adopted out.

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Tina Skeldon Wozniak

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County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said she has “complete confidence” in Ms. Lyle to develop proper protocols for adopting out the dogs. “[The change in law] is no surprise,” Ms. Wozniak said. “We’ve been preparing for the change that we thought would occur.”

Ms. Lyle has been making changes and educating staff members about the changes in the law and how it will affect the pound, she said.

“I think we have to follow her lead,” Ms. Wozniak said. “She is the skilled practitioner; this is her area of expertise.”

Employees will need to be trained since this is a big shift for the shelter, which has never adopted out “pit bulls.” Up until when Ms. Lyle became dog warden in April, 2010, the pound automatically killed them, even the puppies.

Former Dog Warden Tom Skeldon was a vocal supporter of the state law in which “pit bulls” were declared vicious. He also was instrumental in crafting Toledo city laws that further restricted “pit bull” owners by limiting the number they could own to only one. That law was revised by Toledo City Council in November, 2010, on the recommendations of the Lucas County Dog Warden Advisory Committee.

Mr. Skeldon believes that the trap with “pit bulls” is when they are young, they are gregarious and fun. “But when they become 1 to 2 years old, particularly the males, they become captives of their genetics,” he said. “So a whole lot of people have gotten a ‘pit bull’ and then [the dogs] change.”

Jean Keating, co-founder of the Lucas County Pit Crew, has been a vocal opponent of Mr. Skeldon ever since he tried to get Sylvania on board with the restrictions to “pit bull” ownership that Toledo had adopted.

The Pit Crew is picking up its first direct-transfer “pit bull” on Friday. Previously, the dogs were transferred to the Toledo Area Humane Society and then transferred from there to the Pit Crew.

Ms. Keating said she’s not discouraged by the fact that the county won’t immediately start adopting out “pit bulls” and wants to wait the 90 days for the law to become official.

“I think it’s fine for them to wait the 90 days and put the program in place so that they do it right, right from the start,” Ms. Keating said. “Given the long history of what’s gone on in our area, there has to be an educational piece that goes along with it. You really do have to educate people.”

Owning a dog that some people have an automatic negative perception about comes with its own set of challenges, she said. It’s also important that the staff be fully educated about “pit bull”-type dogs so they can help counter and re-educate members of the public who have misconceptions about the dogs.

“They need to be on-board with the idea of adopting out ‘pit bulls,’ ” she said. “It’s really important that the staff present the dogs in the best light.”

Lucas County won’t be the first pound to adopt out “pit bulls” directly to the public. Wood County began adopting them out a few weeks ago under Dog Warden Andrew Snyder.

Contact Tanya Irwin at:

tirwin@theblade.com,

or 419-724-6066.

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