Tuesday, November 23, 1999

Pit bull laws may change

Proposal regulates behavior, not breed

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Pit bulls may soon return to Cincinnati legally under proposed changes to the city's dog laws.

        City Council will consider changes to the city's dog control regulations at itsWednesday meeting, including lifting the 13-year-old ban on pit bulls. The city would instead regulate dogs based on their temperament.

        “We are taking it from breed-specific to behavior-specific,” Councilman Jim Tarbell said at a public hearing Monday.

        Under the proposed changes, pit bulls would be labeled as vicious dogs. Their owners would be required to register the dog with the city, get at least $50,000 in liability insurance and properly confine the animal. Also named vicious dogs would be those of any breed that have injured a person, been used in the commission of a crime or been trained for dog fighting.

        Cincinnati banned pit bulls in 1986 because of their powerful bite and tenacity. Banned from the city were the Staffordshire bull terrier and the American Staffordshire terrier, and any mixed breed of dog containing either of the two breeds.

Outright ban disputed
        Several groups have complained that the ban hurt dog owners with tame pit bulls.

        “As long as they are raised properly, they are good dogs,” said Norma Bennett Woolf, spokeswoman for the Ohio Valley Dog Owners, a coalition of dog clubs and dog owners. Her group supported the changes to the city's dog laws.

        There are few communities that still ban a breed outright, said Peter Paris, spokesman for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The rules actually discourage people from registering their animals, he said.

        Many cities rely on temperament-based legislation. In Greater Cincinnati, several suburban communities — including Forest Park and Butler and Clermont counties — have opted to adopt such vicious-dog ordinances.

        The move to change Cincinnati's laws was prompted by cases in which tame pit bull terriers were confiscated. The suggested changes require greater responsibility and control by dog owners, said Carol Walker, an administrative assistant to the city safety director.

Microchip, leash required
        Highlights of the proposed ordinances include:

        • Parents or legal guardians of minors who own such dogs are responsible for them. • Vicious dogs must be identified using a microchip inserted between its shoulder blades, and by a tattoo. Cincinnati police must be notified immediately if the dog is loose or has attacked someone.

        • Dogs must be on a leash when not on private property or in a vehicle. Now, only dogs in city parks must be on a leash.

        Several Cincinnati residents complained at the public hearing that pit bulls are common in the city despite the ban. Changes to the dog laws won't make much of a difference if they are enforced no better than the old ones, said Ginny Snyder of Mount Auburn.


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