Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pit bills and Ohio's vicious dog law

Meet Rommel.  Sweetest pit bull on 4 legs.  I absolutely love this dog.  He has a pit bull "sister" Val who is equally as sweet, but don't tell Val that Rommel is a bit of a favorite of mine.  I think there is a certain amount of charisma that goes along with old age and Rommel is certainly showing his age. Maybe I just have a great deal of empathy since I have my own geriatric dog at home that is developing her share of old age doggie quirks. A few people good naturedly chuckled at the picture of me holding on to Rommel in my office. They said it looked like I had a wrestling hold on him.  Truth be told, he was hanging out in the office with me after having anesthesia to remove an abscessed tooth.  He is a bit unsteady on his feet to begin with and with just a touch of left over anesthesia in his body, well, he was kind of doing the weeble wobble (without falling down).  But the weebling was making it really hard to get a good picture so I was just giving him a little physical support.  Kind of like the boy scout helping the old lady across the road.  Sweet ol' Rommel.

The point of introducing Rommel is that pit bulls are one of my favorite breeds to work on as a veterinarian.  I meet very few who are truly vicious.  If they are vicious, they are not sneaky about it.  I like knowing where I stand with a dog when my face is in their face doing an exam.  But like I said, very few are aggressive in the vet's office and that is just the plain and honest truth.  I could give you a list of about a half dozen other breeds that can make me cringe a bit inside when I see one of them appear on the appointment calendar.  But even on my own personal list of breeds that could just go away and never be seen or heard from again (and all vets have this list whether they admit to it or not), there are good individual dogs and bad individual dogs.  For some reason I prefer breeds where 80% are happy and friendly in the strange exam room setting as opposed to breeds where 20% are happy and friendly in that same setting. Call me crazy.

Which brings to my reason for writing about pit bulls today.  The state of Ohio's dangerous dog law specifically names the "pit bull" as a vicious breed.  I'm not quite sure the history of how this type of dog and no other became part of the law, but it is there and the law needs changed. Notice I said "type" and not breed because "pit bull" is not even a recognized breed.  There are actually several different breeds that fall into the pit bull "type", but none of this is spelled out in the law.  All this does is to make the law ambiguous and that is a big problem.

What it comes down to is that dog bites are a serious issue.  The physical and emotional damage caused by a dog bite can be enormous.  And on occasion, dog attacks can be fatal.  The laws need to be harsh toward those who choose to keep dogs that are aggressive.  The law does not need to punish people who keep dogs that are well mannered and even tempered just because that dog belongs to a specific breed.  Dangerous dogs need to be treated as individuals.  Period.  Breed specific laws are just plain wrong.

Fortunately Ohio House Representative Barbara Sears has sponsored a bill to remove "pit bull" from the vicious dog law.  The bill (which was actually floating around last year too) is now known has House Bill 14.  The bill is in committee right now and has been assigned to the Criminal Justice committee.  There was actually a committee meeting earlier this morning to hear testimony on this bill.   If you would like to help get H.B. 14 passed, please feel free to contact members of the committee and voice your opinions.  Follow the links below for contact and other information.

Ohio House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee

Lynn Slaby Criminal Justice Committee Chair

Barbara Spears H.B. 14 Sponsor

Ohio H.B. 14 details and links to status

I'll try to keep this blog up to date with details on how this bill is progressing.  This is an important issue to all dog owners.  If the pit bull is specifically named in the law now, what will keep Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Akitas etc from being added.  All of us as dog owners have a stake in this.  Treat dangerous dogs harshly, but treat them as individuals.


  1. Well said!! I will do my part in supporting this bill. As your office knows I too have a pit bull named Kween (aka mercedes adopted from the APL) that went through some terrible things before I adopted her. She is such a sweet girl. She is WONDERFUL with my kids (age 9 and 7) and with my little hyper Jack Russel Kingston. It will be a good day when dogs are not descriminated upon do to their breed. Lets be like saying we as people are no better than the serial killer in prison that is the same race as we are. Now tell me does that make sense. I tell everyone I know...its not my pit bull you have to look out for...the one that is going to get you would be my Jack Russel.
    Kimberly Singleton

  2. Well over here in wayne nj a dog has to declared vicious by a court. I am glad for that because what I would call vicious and what someone else may call vicious can be to different things. So for it to be decided by an individual basis is great for the dogs and us that Luv em.
    I would say my dog Molly if not handled properly could bite. I take that very seriously and Molly never walks off leash near others and if she meets someone it has to be slow and careful.She is friendly but she can escalate if she gets too excited.

    Is she vicious? Not to me but either due to some breeder trying to breed a more vicious dog or the previous owner not giving her the proper attention she can get snappy.She is a big dog too.
    Sorry got a bit off topic.

    It is just the same old adage we have been using for years.

    We judge by looks, skin color, race, religion and why not how dos look dogs too. That is the human condition. I think the animal welfare laws are really bad all over. Many times they are not enforced and not even taken seriously by ACO's.

    I have made complaints myself and others in rescue have also made complaints about abuse and neglect. Sometimes the ACO's dont even show or if they do they screw up the evidence or just dont investigate properly. Laws protecting animals are a joke.
    So if we have these horrible laws that wont protect the animals it makes sense ( in an insane stupid kind of way) that we should just band animals together based on looks and shoot em all.
    Until we take all animal laws seriously, write the laws properly and enforce them this kind of nonsense will continue.

  3. I have a mixed pit bull and lab when I adopted this puppy I did not know anything about the breed and actually did not know I had received a pit bull. I was just getting a free puppy for my kids. As it grew up with them it was wonderful than I moved to Ashtabula and was sighted to court for having a vicious dog I had no clue what was going on. I kept my dog and still love him 12 years later but it was a fight and heart braking. I still do not understand why they can label a dog vicious by its breed alone? Dogs deserve the same rights as us and should not be judged by breed just as we are not judged by color.