Breed Bans Hit Court Opposition;
Anti-tethering Laws Gain Favor
three-judge panel of the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals on
March 3, 2006 struck down as unconstitutional both the Toledo ban
on pit bull terriers, in effect for more than 20 years, and the
parts of the Ohio Revised Code on which the ban was based.
2-1 opinion, written by Judge William Skow with assent from Judge
Arlene Singer, reversed a 2004 ruling by Toledo Municipal Court
Judge Francis Gorman.
Lucas County dog warden Tom Skeldon reluctantly instructed his staff
to stop citing Toledo residents for possession of multiple pit bulls,
not carrying dog bite liability insurance, and not keeping pit bulls
under close control.
not in the pit bull business any more. We're not in the vicious-dog
business any more," Skeldon told Erica Blake of the Toledo
Blade. "They've taken away our ability to enforce containment,
whether of a German shepherd or a pit bull, whether the dog has
bitten someone or not."
verdict came three days after two dogs of banned breeds, an American
bulldog mix and a Presa Canario, mauled Nicole Brown, 12, of Oregon,
Ohio verdict, opposite to a 2005 decision by the Colorado Supreme
Court, is not a direct precedent for other states, carries less
weight than the Colorado ruling, and will be appealed, pledged acting
Toledo law director John Madigan.
18th Judicial District Judge Michael Spear on February 8 invoked
the Colorado Supreme Court ruling in dismissing--for the second
time--a lawsuit brought by Khristina Villani of Brighton, who sought
to overturn a pit bull ban that took effect on February 1 in the
city of Aurora. Brighton owns property in Aurora.
the Ohio verdict is appealed, however, it may inhibit the passage
of other breed-specific legislation. But that might increase support
for anti-chaining laws, an increasingly popular alternative approach
to preventing dog attacks.
four most common factors in life-threatening and fatal dog attacks,
according to research posted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
& Prevention, are that the dog is unsterilized, the victim is
a child, the dog is a pit bull, and the dog is either tethered or
has a history of usually being tethered.
many communities still have public safety statutes requiring that
dogs be kept fenced or tethered. Until under 20 years ago most humane
societies promoted tethering as a second-best alternative to fencing,
as part of their effort to discourage petkeepers from letting animals
roam at large.
male dogs have been known to be more aggressive, and female dogs
with litters have been known to be more reactive, since Biblical
times. Licensing ordinances that set lower fees for sterilized dogs
already exist in most of the U.S., and many jurisdictions have additional
legislation to try to boost the sterilization rate.
are the victims of about three out of four dog attacks. The Centers
for Disease Control & Prevention analysis holds that this is
primarily because children spend the most time close to dogs, and
are less experienced than most adults at knowing when a dog may
bite. Many bite prevention programs already target children, but
some of the common tips can be misleading with pit bulls, who have
been bred in part to exhibit behavior that may deceive foes in a
fight, and have often had their ears and tails cropped to further
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported in a 1991
study that tethered dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite than
dogs who roam free. Tethering tends to increase dogs' territoriality
and likelihood of delivering a reactive bite, since a tied dog cannot
run away from a perceived threat.
the tether often trips the attack victim, enabling the dog to maul
a person who otherwise might escape unharmed.
January 1, 2005, the ANIMAL PEOPLE files indicate, tethering has
been a factor in 55 of 174 life-threatening or fatal dog attacks
in the U.S. and Canada of which we have record (32%), but was involved
in only four of 35 cases abroad (11%), where dogs are much less
often tied.Tethering was also a factor in eight of 31 dog-shootings
by U.S. police (26%).In some cases dogs usually kept tied attacked
people and/or were shot after escaping. In others, the dogs attacked
2005, the ANIMAL PEOPLE files on dog attacks were not logged in
a way that left tethering history easily accessible, but the breed-specific
log of life-threatening and fatal attacks goes back to September
1982. Through March 2006, 2,081 dog attacks in the U.S. and Canada
qualified for listing: 1,027 by pit bull terriers (49%), 399 by
Rottweilers (19%), 2% by pit/Rott mixes, and 323 by the seven next
most often involved breeds combined: wolf hybrids, German
shepherds and their close mixes, chows, Akitas, huskies, and boxers.
10 breeds and their close mixes accounted for 86% of all life-threatening
and fatal dog attacks. Among those breeds, only German shepherds
and their mixes have consistently ranked among the 10 most popular.
Pit bulls, now a "top 10 breed," for the first time ever,
appear to have increased from less than 1% of the U.S. dog population
for most of the 20th century to nearly 6% now.Accompanying the six-fold
increase in the number of pit bulls has been an eight-fold increase
in the number of human deaths and maimings by pit bulls.
legislation, long opposed by the American Kennel Club, the American
SPCA, and the Humane Society of the U.S., is no longer actively
opposed by HSUS, and has won support around the U.S. and Canada.
According to the AKC, 37 jurisdictions in 17 states were considering
breed-specific ordinances as of mid-March 2006.
American Canine Foundation, which backed the Toledo lawsuit, in
early March 2006 served notice of intent to sue seeking to overturn
a breed-specific ordinance adopted on February 22, 2006 in Auburn,
Washington. The Auburn ordinance lists 12 breeds in all: pit bulls,
10 closely related "fighting" breeds, and Akitas.
most sweeping pit bull ban to date was enacted in 2005 in Ontario,
Canada, covering the entire province, but "Toronto will not
fully enforce the ban unless the prov-ince helps to pay the costs,"
Toronto Star reporter Paul Moloney disclosed on March 23. "The
city budget committee did not support an animal services department
request for funds to hire 10 more animal control officers,"
whom the city claimed would be needed."If the province wants
a higher standard of enforcement, then we need money," said
budget committee vice chair Joe Mihevic."It's our hope that
costs will not increase significantly because we
expect citizens will comply with the law," returned Ontario
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Brendan Crawley. "They will
keep their pit bulls muzzled and leashed, they will get their pit
bulls neutered, and therefore we don't anticipate costs will increase
laws have contrastingly met little opposition since 2003, when Connecticut
became the first state to enact an anti-tethering law. Most recently,
the Fort Lauderdale city council voted unanimously on March 22,
2006 to follow Hollywood, Dania Beach, Pembroke Park, and Hallandale
Beach in banning prolonged tethering, at request of the Broward
County Humane Society and Mothers Against Dog Chaining.
Indiana banned prolonged tethering in February 2006."There
are currently at least 80 cities, counties, and states in the nation
with laws banning or limiting chaining," according to Tammy
Grimes, of Tipton, Pennsylvania, who founded the anti-tethering
group Dogs Deserve Better in 2001.Mothers Against Dog Chaining,
empowering mothers whose children have been hurt by tied dogs to
testify against tethering, is a project of Dogs Deserve Better.
Grimes, who is also associate web producer for ANIMAL PEOPLE, is
now organizing an online support group for bereaved members.
most prominent Dogs Deserve Better activity since 2002 has been
Have A Heart for Chained Dogs Week, in which anti-chaining activists
raise public awareness by delivering Valentines, treat coupons,
and brochures to chained or otherwise closely confined dogs. A record
5,277 Valentine packets were delivered in 2006, to dogs in 46 of
the 50 states and many dogs in Canada.
third approach to trying to reduce dog attacks is raising the penalties
for keeping dangerous dogs. Recent pit bull attack fatalities helped
higher penalties to clear the Oklahoma house on March 2, and the
Virginia senate on March 8. However, stiffer penalties tend to discourage
keepers from acknowledging dogs who attack. Further, penalties for
keeping a dangerous dog usually apply only after someone is injured.
Editor, ANIMAL PEOPLE
P.O. Box 960
Clinton, WA 98236
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