Pit bulls, Profiling, and Prejudice

PetMD Editorial
Updated: November 07, 2013
Published: June 22, 2011
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Dog attacks can be debilitating and even fatal to people and other pets. Understandably so, it is a serious concern for our public safety. But what exactly makes a dog dangerous has been a part of contentious debate.

Some U.S. states and provinces in Canada have even passed statutes, ordinances and laws banning breeds -- essentially taken a stance to say that the violence isn’t in the behavior but brewing in the blood of specific animals; i.e., natural born killers.

Ohio legislation has come under fire for such a state ordinance, labeling every single pit bull in the population a vicious animal. Even if the pit-bull never bit anyone or anything but ropes and tennis balls, even if the pit-bull happens to be a puppy, and even if the Pit bull is a certified therapy dog necessary to the quality of life of a disabled person. 

Ohio is the only state so far to take legal action on dogs due to appearance rather than actual behavior, but city governments are doing their best to fight back. The Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates visited Cleveland’s city councilmen and managed to help unanimously pass new city ordinances gearing toward breed-neutrality. State Representative Barbara Sears (R-Lucas County) has introduced a bill to change the focus from breed to bite as well. "It's just like two-legged folks," said the bill's sponsor. "We're not assigned as one thing or the other until we've actually done something."

The fight has carried beyond Ohio’s border. Just a few days ago in Saginaw, MI an ordinance was passed against “dangerous dogs” not only labeling Pit bulls but German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Bullmastiffs, and even Alaskan malamutes. The legislation also requires heavy fines and fees just for owning any of the listed breeds, even if the dog happens to be a mix of other breeds, to have never bitten anyone, and is a necessary help for a disabled owner.

Last October in Ohio, the Toledo city council passed statutes placing the blame of attacks on the owner, labeling dangerous animals as Level-1 and Level-2 threats, and never in the legislation making any mention of any breed.

For those fighting to end breed-discrimination, Toledo is seen as the model city leading the fight though it’s only been two years apart from when then-dog warden Tom Skeldon resigned after a controversial campaign consisting of euthanizing Pit bull puppies and offering financial incentives to capture and kill grown ones.

You can find more on Breed-Discrimination issues happening across the world at www.stopbsl.com

Image: Steph Skardal / via Flickr

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