Breed-specific dog laws survive Ohio challenge, face another; related developments

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2004:

TOLEDO, Ohio–Breed-specific dog legislation on July 8,
2004 survived a challenge in Toledo Municipal Court. Judge Francis
X. Gorman upheld an ordinance limiting possession of pit bull
terriers to one, insured for $100,000 liability, and requiring that
pit bulls be kept behind locked doors or fences at home, muzzled
when taken out.
Paul Tellings, 30, then of East Toledo, sued, backed by
the American Canine Foundation, of Belfair, Washington, after he
was charged with keeping too many pit bulls and not insuring them.
Gorman ruled that “The pit bull, as a breed, is not
inherently dangerous,” and that “There is no statistical evidence
which indicates that the pit bull bites more frequently than some
other breeds.” However, Gorman wrote, “There is substantial
evidence that pit bull bites cause a disproportionate number of
fatalities.” Because pit bulls have “been utilized extensively by
drug dealers, dogfighters, and urban gang members,” Gorman said,
they “create a substantial and real threat to the safety of the
public. This ordinance is a necessary and useful tool,” Gorman
concluded, “in controlling these undesirable dogs.”
ACF founder Glen Bui in a web posting called the verdict “a
very small victory but a major loss.”
Tellings and Bui indicated to Toledo Blade staff writer Robin
Erb that Tellings might next plead “no contest” to a misdemeanor
charge in order to pursue an appeal.

Bui has also sued, so far unsuccessfully, seeking to
overturn the Washington seat belt statute.
The Ohio Supreme Court, in a separate case, has been asked
to revisit a 1991 ruling on the constitutionality of the Ohio
dangerous dog law on which the Toledo ordinance is based. The law
includes breed-specific components, but the case involves a
non-breed-specific clause defining any dog as vicious if the dog has
seriously harmed a person or killed another dog.
Under the law, explained Associated Press writer Carrie
Spencer, “Owners of dangerous or vicious dogs, as determined by a
county dog warden, must restrain them and obtain extra liability
insurance. The Ohio Supreme Court in 1991 upheld part of the law
saying pit bulls are vicious by definition.”
Janice Cowan, 50, of Mogadore, argues that her German
shepherd and two of the dog’s mixed-breed offspring were unjustly
killed after the two mixed-breed dogs mauled neighbor Margaret
Maurer, on Maurer’s property.
“Cowan was convicted two years ago of four counts of failing
to restrain a vicious dog, all misdemeanors. She was sentenced to
five days in jail and a $500 fine,” Spencer wrote. The dogs were
kept chained, but “since they were considered vicious, not just
dangerous, they had to be in a locked fenced yard or in a locked
cage with a top,” Spencer added. A three-judge panel from the Ohio
11th District Court of Appeals rejected two of Cowan’s three claims
of unjust treatment, but agreed 2-1 that Portage County violated her
right of due process.

New legislation

Laws restricting or prohibiting possession of pit bull
terriers and other dog breeds deemed dangerous have been in effect in
Britain and the Netherlands for nearly 20 years, and have more
recently been adopted in many other nations. The Israeli Agriculture
Ministry on June 22, 2004 proposed a legislative ban on imports of
pit bulls, Rottweilers, their mixes, and other breeds often used
in dogfighting.
Breed-specific legislation has mostly been attempted at the
local level in the U.S., and has usually been withdrawn or repealed
through the vehement opposition of pit bull and Rottweiler breeders,
the American Kennel Club, the Humane Society of the U.S., and the
American SPCA.
Where maintained, the bans have been effective. Ariel Sabar
of the Baltimore Sun reported on July 13 that a seven-year-old pit
bull ban in Forestville, Maryland, coincided with a steady decline
in reported pit bull attacks, from 108 in 1996 to 71 in 2003.
ANIMAL PEOPLE meanwhile found that among open-admission shelters in
22 U.S. cities, those in Denver had the fewest pit bulls,
Rottweilers, and related mixes in custody during the several days
preceding the July 4 weekend. A 20-year-old Denver ban on pit bulls
was repealed by a state law against breed specific ordinances only a
few weeks earlier. Denver city attorney Kory Nelson told ANIMAL
PEOPLE that the city is likely to challenge the constitutionality of
the state law.
The Boston city council on June 23 voted 7-4 for an ordinance
requiring that pit bulls must be sterilized, and must be muzzled in
public. The ordinance, opposed by the Massachusetts SPCA and
Massa-chusetts Federation of Dog Clubs, also requires that warning
signs must be posted wherever pit bulls live. It passed after
incidents that within a matter of days resulted in injuries to a
six-year-old, severe maulings of a dog and cat, and the police
shooting of a pit bull who attacked an exterminator, an animal
control officer, and a police officer, as well as killing another
Salina, Kansas on June 28 banned bringing pit bulls into the
city and restricted possession of those already there. “The
ordinance requires that pit bulls cannot be outside unless leashed by
an adult or inside a secure kennel,” Salina Journal reporter Darrin
Stineman told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “There is nothing about fence
confinement,” Stineman said, “possibly because one of our worst
attacks involved dogs digging under a fence.”
In that attack, three-year-old Caitlyn Forsberg on May 4,
2004 suffered severe facial bites from two pit bulls kept by neighbor
Christopher Stone. She was rescued by her golden retriever, Osh
Gosh. Salina Animal Shelter director Rose Base nominated Osh Gosh
for the Lewyt Award for Heroic & Compassionate Animals, given by the
North Shore Animal League America. The nomination is under review.
Stone on July 14 was convicted of five related misdemeanors.


Manslaughter charges were filed in June against Roddie Dumas,
29, of Charlotte, North Carolina. Dumas’ son Roddie Dumas Jr., 8,
was on April 16 killed by four pit bulls in the back yard of the
family home. A federal grand jury on April 27 indicted Dumas for
possessing crack cocaine with intent to sell, using and carrying a
firearm during a drug offense, being a felon in possession of
fire-arms and ammunition, and intimidating and interfering with a
mail carrier who tried to save the child.


San Francisco mounted police officer David Herrera in June
sued San Francisco SPCA volunteer Anastasia Klafter, 27, for back
injuries suffered on November 23, 2003 when her pit bull–a trained
therapy dog adopted from the SF/SPCA–attacked his horse when
illegally allowed to run off leash. The horse threw Herrera and
kicked Klafter in the face. Another police officer shot the dog,
who survived, and now by court order must be leashed and muzzled
when outdoors.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on June 9 upheld the right of
police to sue the owners of dogs who injure them in the line of duty,
agreeing with Milwaukee police officer Judy Cole that dog attacks
should not be considered a normal occupational risk. Cole suffered
severe facial bites on the job in January 2001.
On July 7 the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a landlord
cannot be held liable for the acts of a tenant’s dogs. Victim Tatum
Smax-well, then 3, suffered serious injuries from three wolf
hybrids. Her landlord and grandmother Gloria Thompson had given the
dogs’ owner, Melva Bayard, permission to keep the dogs behind the
victim’s home. Neighbors had reportedly complained to the Manitowoc
County Sheriff’s Department about the dogs’ behavior more than 70
times in seven years.

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