Cincinnati pit bull Dilly after a long night's sleep - Credit: Anthony Grainger
Dog lover or not, one must admit that pit bulls suffer from a pretty abysmal reputation. Thanks to their depictions in pop culture and history as fighting dogs, pit bulls have arguably garnered the most discrimination of any dog breed; many have visions of them constantly gnashing their teeth, chomping down on everything in sight, from little children to helpless dogs. That means they're often the target of unnecessary euthanasia, abuse or neglect.
Meet a socialized pit bull and you'll likely attest members of the breed can be, in a word, wimpy. Finally, however, legislation is seeming to catch up with that knowledge — the breed has come upon a much-deserved stroke of good fortune. On Tuesday, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill that no longer declares pit bulls vicious or dangerous prior to an incident or inspection. For 25 years, Ohio has been the only state in the country to automatically declare a dog vicious based solely on breed, without regard to demeanor or behavior. Pit bulls have always fallen under that category, meaning they typically have a difficult time getting adopted or following their owners to apartment complexes or other multi-family housing (Read Martin Brennan's blog about pit bull treatment in Cincinnati here).
In fact, thanks to an old grandfather clause, owning a pit bull is technically illegal in Hamilton County, although that hasn't really stopping dog owners from adopting the breed.
In 2011, a bill was introduced to remove pit bulls from Ohio's definition of vicious dogs. Although the bill passed in the House of Representatives, it was never voted on in the Senate. Recently, Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Lucas County) reintroduced legislation to protect pit bulls. A petition at Change.org earned nearly 19,000 signatures of those in favor of the bill's passing. The bill, Substitute House Bill 14, not only removes the breed-discriminatory clause, but tightens the reins on dangerous dog laws, meaning law enforcement can better target their time on punishing reckless owners and truly violent dogs rather than otherwise innocent family pets. The bill outlines a clear system for determining a dog "dangerous," defined by killing another dog or injuring a person without provocation. Before the amendment of HB 14, an owner with a dog declared "vicious" would be required to obtain liability insurance. According to John Dunham and Associates, an economic research firm, it cost Ohioans $17 million each year to enforce the old law. The bill is expected to go into effect in 90 days.