Jan 15, 2019 | By: BeinLove Creations Photography and Album Design
Breed-specific legislation is laws passed pertaining to a specific breed or breeds of domesticated animals. In reality, it often refers to laws pertaining to a specific dog breed or breeds. Some jurisdictions have enacted breed-specific legislation in response to a number of well-publicized incidents involving pit bull-type dogs or other dog breeds that are often used in dog fighting. The laws on the books range from outright banning possession of these dogs to restricting and placing conditions on ownership. These laws also often legally presume that these dogs are generally "dangerous" or "vicious".
The United States has the right to enact breed-specific legislation; however, the appropriateness and effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in preventing dog bite fatalities and injuries is often questioned. Some people feel that comprehensive "dog bite" legislation, when paired with better consumer education and mandating responsible pet keeping practices, is a much more appropriate answer to the concern of dangerous dogs.
Other people believe that breed-specific laws should not ban breeds outright, but should regulate the conditions under which specific breeds could be owned. For instance, rules could govern public areas where they may be prohibited or requiring a muzzle when in public.
It is worth noting that the Center for Disease Control concluded in 2000, that while pit bull-type and rottweiler dogs are involved in attacks on humans, other breeds, such as Akitas and Cane Corsos, bite and cause fatalities at higher rates. Likewise, fatal attacks represent a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans.
It stands to reason that there are better alternatives for prevention of dog bites than breed-specific ordinances.
In 2012, Ohio changed its law and pit bulls were no longer labeled as "vicious" dogs. The new law defines a vicious dog as one that has seriously hurt or killed a person, killed another dog or is among those commonly known as pit bulls. The language removes the reference to pit bulls from the definition and requires evidence to prove pit bulls are actually vicious. This should be the standard across the board.
Despite this change, several cities in Ohio still have pit bull bans, including Parma and Garfield Heights, Ohio. The Cities of Lakewood and Rocky River have recently repealed their decade old ban earlier this year, and we want to see the same thing happen elsewhere.
While cities across Ohio have continued to keep pit bull bans in place; I would first like to note that the following mainstream organizations are opposed to laws that target specific breeds of dogs.
American Animal Hospital Association
American Bar Association (ABA)
American Dog Owners Association
American Humane Society
American Kennel Club (AKC)
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
American Working Dog Federation
Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Center for Disease Control (CDC)
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
International Association of Canine Professionals
National Animal Control Association
National Animal Interest Alliance
National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors
National Canine Research Council
No Kill Advocacy Center
AND there are MANY others. Experts in the field. Actual experts. Both legal and canine.
There are many so-called experts out there that manipulate data and make it fit their position and in doing so, gain the following of similar-minded persons, who then claim their numbers are valid. Then those persons try to influence public policy.
To look at the issue of pit bull bans, several issues need to be analyzed. The definition of “statistic” needs to be addressed. The definition of “pit bull” needs to be addressed. Last, but not least, there needs to be a valid identification process for “pit bulls.”
A statistic is a fact or piece of data from a study of a large quantity of numerical data.
A pit bull can be defined as a muscular, short-haired, stocky dog of any of several breeds or a hybrid with one or more of these breeds that is noted for strength, stamina, and tenacity. This is a pretty GENERALIZED definition and could encompass many, many breeds.
Pit bull identification is even harder to pin down. Visual identification- skull shape, body size, coat color, ear formation- are usually factors arbitrarily used as identifying and those factors can apply to many breeds.
ACOs (animal control officers) have personally told me that if a resident is cited for owning a pit bull they cannot even provide a genetic defense because veterinarian genetic testing has been deemed inaccurate, inconsistent and inconclusive. (This is an aside, but personally, based on our legal system, the cities should have the burden of proof to show that a dog is a pit bull, not an owner being cited pursuant to arbitrary guidelines.)
Dog bite stats are generally based upon distorted media reports, where pit bull type bites are reported so much more frequently than other dog bite stories that involve other breeds. To put it in perspective, let’s look at the ACTUAL likelihood of being killed by ANY breed of dog, and how that compares to other ways someone could die.
In 2014, the U.S. National Safety Council illustrated that the chances of dying by a dog bite are 1 in 116,448. So just for comparison, the chance of dying by legal execution are similar, like 1 in 127,717.*
You are, in fact, twice as likely to die by a hornet, bee or wasp sting than a dog, 1 in 55,764.*
You are FAR more likely to die from eating a hot dog (choking from inhalation of food) than from being attacked by an actual dog.*
Death by a real dog- 1 in 116,448.*
Death by a hot dog- 1 in 3,375.*
Now let’s talk about Dogsbite.org. This site is NOT run by experts. Yet, the media and municipalities treat the website as if they have exact knowledge on dog bites and dog attacks. They do not.
Dogbites.org is run by a person who was attacked by a dog (that may or may not have been a pit bull- we don’t know) while she was jogging.
Initially, the website was created to distinguish which breeds of dogs are dangerous to have in neighborhoods, to help enact laws to regulate the ownership of these breeds and to help enact laws that hold dog owners criminally liable if their dog attacks a person or causes serious injury or death.
Holding dog owners criminally liable if their dog attacks is a fair premise. However, identifying breeds dangerous to neighborhoods and regulating ownership of breeds is very much truly about targeting certain breeds and banning them. Despite claims that the website is actually slated to be educational and informative, it is not.
What’s real is that the groups listed above- groups that encompass top experts in the the fields of dog trainers, rescues, shelters, animal behaviorists, governmental entities, veterinarians and also many, many ACOs (animal control officers)- do not support breed specific legislation.
Why? Because they actually are experts and have real experience working with all types of dogs. They realize that aggression is not a breed-specific problem. The legislation recommended should focus on behaviors of dogs, not breed type.
In the case of Russ v. Reynoldsburg (2017-Ohio-1471), the Fifth District Court of Appeals (Licking County, Ohio), rationalized that while the City of Reynoldsburg’s Ordinances prohibit the ownership of pit bulls outright, the Ohio Revised Code, Chapter 955, has abolished breed-specific determinations of whether or not a dog is vicious or dangerous and focuses instead on the conduct of the individual dog.
Under Ohio law, Ohio residents may keep or own any dog they choose, provided that if the dog is determined to be “dangerous” as defined in R.C. 955.11(A)(1)(a), the owner must comply with R.C. 955.22. Thus, while a pit bull is automatically considered “vicious” under the Reynoldsburg Ordinances and ownership of the same is prohibited, a pit bull may or may not be considered “vicious” under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 955 based on its conduct.
As such, the Court found that there was a conflict between Reynoldsburg’s pit bull Ordinances and Chapter 955, as amended by House Bill 14. The Ordinances prohibit that what is permitted by Ohio statutes (ownership of dogs identified as pit bulls).
Just in case anyone needs a refresher on how laws come into existence, they can be made by the legislature or by the judiciary, by way of case law. Case law is being made. Once that happens, other courts are bound to follow.