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(Updated 1/6/01)

Ohio bull breed ban proposed

A WHILST THE Maryland Councillors in Baltimore showed measured restraint in voting against a breed-specific ban on so-called ‘dangerous’ dogs, the Mayor of a city in the State of Ohio is planning to bring in an equally ill-considered, ‘quick fix’ Bill.

South Euclid Mayor John Kocevar intends to ban any “pit bull dog” from the city.

An ordinance he introduced to council last week specifies that mixed breed pit bulls and purebred dogs of four specific breeds would be banned.

Those breeds are Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier and Presa Canario (aka. Canary Dogs).

The ordinance states that these dogs “possess inherent characteristics of aggression, strength, viciousness and unpredictability not found in other dog breeds.”

Local animal experts do not agree. Melanie Tierney, an animal behaviorist specialising in aggression, said that statement is “absolutely incorrect and shows a high level of ignorance.”

Irresponsible

She added that in the city of Cleveland pit bulls account for only 12 per cent of dog bites. “Cat bites out number bites from pit bulls. What are you doing about the rest of the dogs? The owner of the dog is the root of the problem. They need to train, contain and restrain their dogs. An ordinance like this does not address the true issue - irresponsible ownership, “ she said.

“The best laws target behaviour, not breed. There should be severe and escalating consequences on the owner,” Tierney said.

Dr. Jeffery Richman, a veterinarian in Richmond Heights, said that he sees many nasty dogs in his clinic who are not pit bulls, and many well-beheved dogs that are American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire Bull terriers.
“You can’t fairly assign an ordinance to a breed. There are some individuals in each breed that are wonderful and terrible,” he said.

The district of Pepper Pike recently adopted non-breed specific legislation regarding dangerous dogs, which must be contained in a pen and must be on a leash outside the home and covered by $50,000 worth of liability insurance. Vicious dogs are prohibited. The city of Pontiac, Michigan, passed a ban on pit bulls in April but allows existing pit bulls to remain with restrictions.

“The ‘macho’ breeds change every decade. It used to be Dobermanns and shepherds, now it’s pit bulls and Rottweilers. If you ban one breed, they’ll just change to another one,” Tierney said.

Concerned

Mayor Kocevar said that pit bulls are considered to be dangerous and vicious animals, and that people are not happy having one in the yard next door. He submitted the ‘quick fix’ ordinance after a committee meeting with Princeton Boulevard residents who were concerned about a pit bull-type dog in their neighbourhood.

Residents cited their concerns about “being afraid to go in the backyard,” a strong smell and being approached by the dog.

To date, no expert advice has been sought by either the Mayor of the City Council about the practicalities of introducing such a ban.

Melanie Tierney pointed out that identification of listed breeds is almost always impossible and that to pursue a ban on pit bulls indicates that “they are so dangerous that they must be seized.” This means that the city would have to keep and care for the animal until a trial. She said that Cincinnati instituted a similar law, costing the city $2,500 to quarantine each animal.

Both Tierney and Richman agreed that stricter enforcement of the leash laws would help decrease residents’ fears and the incidence of dog bites.