In response to a request from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Dublin officials plan to amend ordinances that define pit bulls as "vicious."
Robert Hensley Jr., legal advocacy senior counsel for the ASPCA, wrote to Dublin Mayor Greg Peterson on June 16 asking the city to change how it defines the breed based on a recent decision by the Fifth Appellate District Court of Appeals in the case of Russ vs. the City of Reynoldsburg.
The court, Hensley wrote in his letter, ultimately ruled that a Reynoldsburg ordinance prohibiting residents from owning, harboring or keeping a vicious dog, defined as a pit bull, conflicted with the state's breed-neutral dangerous dog law.
Dublin's ordinances regarding pit bulls date to 2002, when the city enacted restrictions mirroring state law at the time that defined pit bulls as vicious regardless of behavior and required the dogs' owners to file proof of insurance with the Dublin Division of Police.
Since 2002, only three pit bull owners complied with the requirement, according to a memo from Dublin Law Director Jennifer Readler to Dublin City Council.
An ordinance Dublin City Council is now considering would do away with the pit bull owner proof of insurance requirement and instead would define a dog by action instead of breed.
The ordinance would provide three different behavior-based definitions:
• A dangerous dog would be defined by actions that include causing injury to someone or killing another dog.
• A nuisance dog would be defined as a dog that without provocation and while off the owner's premises chased or approached someone in a menacing way or attempted to bite or endanger someone.
• A vicious dog would be defined as a dog that has killed or seriously injured a person without provocation.
A second reading and public hearing for the ordinance will be held Aug. 28.
Readler said the city wants to comply with current state law and case law, which has trended away from breed-specific classification.
In 2012, the Ohio legislature amended its law to move against defining dogs' behavior categorically by breed, Readler said.
"Ordinances like ours started to be challenged," she said.
Stigma of a breed
The pit bull as a breed has suffered from a stigma for a long time, said Kristen Knight, director of Adopt a Pit Rescue.
Adopt a Pit, based in southwestern Ohio, has 110 dogs in more than 75 foster homes, Knight said. The majority of dogs the nonprofit organization rescues are pit bulls.
While most people don't have the opportunity to learn about pit bulls' positive attributes, the breed is not the only one to have received a stigma, Knight said.
In the past, Rottweilers, Dobermans and German shepherds have also received a negative stereotype.
Knight said she believes pit bulls are easy to train, loyal and good with children.
Those unfamiliar with pit bulls often have reservations about the dogs being unsafe, but Knight said she has found that families new to the breed return to adopt additional pit bulls after adopting their first one, Knight said.
The movement of state law's toward addressing a dog's actions is important, Knight said.
"It's not about the breed of dog, it's about the dog itself," she said.