Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Breed Discrimination

In a 7-0 decision written by Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the finding of the Ohio Court of Appeals that Ohio state law R.C. 955.22 and 955.11(A)(4)(a)(iii) and Toledo Municipal Code 505.14(a) are unconstitutional because they define vicious dogs to include pit bulls. A copy of the opinion can be foundin Pending Cases.

Ohio is the only state that has declared dogs known as pit bulls are "vicious" for no reason other than their breeds. Ohio Rev. Code Sec. 955.11(A)(4)(a)(iii). Vicious otherwise refers to a dog that (i) Has killed or caused serious injury to any person; (ii) Has caused injury, other than killing or serious injury, to any person, or has killed another dog. Ohio Rev. Code Sec. 955.11(A)(4)(a)(i), (ii). See also Ohio Rev. Code Sec. 955.22(A)

In the case of in the case of City of Toledo v. Tellings, the following laws were at issue: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 955.11(A)(4)(a)(iii) which includes in the definition of "vicious dogs" "a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog." Toledo, Ohio, Code § 505.14 which limits ownership of pit bulls to only one per household and requires liability insurance and muzzles when they are in public for "vicious dogs" which by definition include pit bulls.

The Ohio Supreme Court found, "Despite the special relationships that exist among many individuals and their dogs, dogs are personal property, and the state or the city has the right to control those that are a threat to the safety of the community: [L]egislatures have broad police power to regulate all dogs so as to protect the public against the nuisance posed by a vicious dog."

The trial court cited the substantial evidence supporting its conclusion that pit bulls, compared to other breeds, cause a disproportionate amount of danger to people. The chief dog warden of Lucas County testified that: (1) when pit bulls attack, they are more likely to inflict severe damage to their victim than other breeds of dogs; (2) pit bulls have killed more Ohioans than any other breed of dog; (3) Toledo police officers fire their weapons in the line of duty at pit bulls more often than they fire weapons at people and all other breeds of dogs combined; (4) pit bulls are frequently shot during drug raids because pit bulls are encountered more frequently in drug raids than any other dog breed."

The Court concluded, "[P]it bulls pose a serious danger to the safety of citizens. The state and the city have a legitimate interest in protecting citizens from the danger posed by this breed of domestic dog.The statutes and the city ordinance are rationally related to serve the legitimate interests of protecting Ohio and Toledo citizens." The Court also found "the term ‘pit bull’ is not unconstitutionally void for vagueness." The Court then rejected that pit bull owners should be entitled to notice and a hearing on any determination a dog is a pit bull.

Interestingly, one justice, Justice Maureen O’Connor, agreed with the judgment but said pit bulls are not vicious because of breed. In a separate concurring opinion, the justice wrote, "Almost all domestic animals can cause significant injuries to humans, and it is proper to require that all domestic animals be maintained and controlled. Laws to that effect are eminently reasonable for the safety of citizens and of the animal. Because the danger posed by vicious dogs and pit bulls arises from the owner’s failure to safely control the animal, rational legislation should focus on the owner of the dog rather than the specific breed that is owned. According to the evidence presented at trial, though, [t]he dogs were family pets and had no history of aggressive or unlawful behavior."

The lower court pointed out, "Much of the evidence was presented to show that pit bulls which have not been trained to be aggressive are highly obedient, eager-to-please, good family pets. Jed Mignano, a Toledo Humane Society cruelty investigator, testified that pit bulls had been taken into the shelter, did not require special cages or treatment, and were adopted out without problems. He further stated that he had never been bitten by a pit bull and did not experience them to be ‘vicious’ in comparison to other breeds.

"The state’s expert, Dr. Borchelt, testified that he had never been bitten by a pit bull, that his investigations for housing complaints against pit bulls in New York did not reveal any vicious pit bulls, and that most pit bulls brought to animal shelter were adopted out without hesitation. Karla Hamlin testified that some pit bulls taken into Lucas County Dog Pound exhibited aggressive behavior, [but] she had never been bitten by a pit bull and did not think pit bulls, as a breed, were any more likely to bite or fight than other dogs.

"Dr. Brisbin, along with other experts, testified that pit bulls do not have locking jaws. This information is based on actual dog dissections and measurement of their skulls, concluding that their jaw muscles and bone structure are the same as other similarly sized dogs.

"Recent statistics from reports provided by 44 Ohio county health departments indicated very few bites by pit bulls in 2001-2002, with chows, German shepherds, Rottweilers, and Labrador retrievers at higher overall percentages of bites than pit bulls."

In addition, testimony was presented that the situations and reasons for any dog attacks, information which was not included in the CDC report, were much more important to the purpose of preventing future injuries than bare numbers.

One expert testified that most fatal attacks on children could be attributed to lack of parental supervision, rather than inherently vicious dogs.

25 thoughts on “Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Breed Discrimination”

  1. Maybe we should create a law banning stupid owners rather than pit bulls. Then there would be no problems at all!

  2. This is a case of racism against this breed if it were about humans it would be alot more controversy. This is wrong.. Most animal activist these days are fighting to save animal breeds from extinction and here ohio is trying to take out a breed. It’s wrong and should be fought alot harder..

  3. This whole trying to ban a pit bull thing is ridiculous. These dogs are the nicest animals if trained right. I dont believe it is fair that just because people fight this animal that the whole breed should be discontinued. Please think of all the familys with kids that have pit bulls and how many peoples feelings this law would hurt. I dont think its right to take away a pit bull without cause!

  4. This is the same logic used to argue against legal gun ownership. Criminals and irresponsible dog owners are the ones likely to teach their dogs to be agressive and should be held accountable not pit bulls as a breed. Responsible dog owners would not teach their pit bulls to be agressive and any one who thinks they are vicious as a breed have never worked in dog shelters. They are some of the most loving and adoptable dogs out there. We would love to add one to our family but our county currently requires them to be muzzled. We will help in the fight against this moronic legislation.

  5. Lets get real here. If one of your your kids was chewed up by a Pit Bull would you be fighting mad ? Wake up the answer is yes. Ohio needs to inact laws that protect our children.Please Write to Our Great Ohio congressman Tyrone Yates. He is on the side of your kids.

  6. Again it is not the dog but the way it is raised by the humans. You people just don’t get it. Let the congressman keep taking our rights away – then what are we left with. Make them punish the criminals and animal abusers that have made such a terrible reputation for these animals. If they take away the PitBulls these people will find another breed of dog to do there dirty work, then what ban it? When will it stop! I understand that you do not like these dogs, fine but to kill them, it is unfair to the dogs and to the responsible owners who have them as wonderful family pets.

  7. I have been bitten several times by dogs and guess what? Not one of them was a “pit bull.” One was a poodle, one was an old English Sheepdog and the other was a bischon frise. You know what all of these have in common? With the exception of the bischon, they were my fault and my dogs. Why they happened is a long story, but the point is that the owner is responsible for the dog’s behavior. But I guess we should ban them as well. How about basset hounds as my cousin was severely bitten by one as a young child?
    Congressman Yates is NOT on the side of children, he is on his own side. The only reason to pass a law like this is to make it look like he is doing something to protect people without actually doing anything. Breed bans are nearly impossible to enforce for several reasons: 1. What is a pit bull? There is no such breed recognized by any breed or dog club. 2. How do you identify a “pit bull” mix? Dogs that look like them often have no bully breeds in them and those that don’t look like them sometimes do. For instance, by boxer/basset cross could be mistaken for a pit bull if it were not for her obvious boxer markings. Okay and now for why they don’t work even when attempts at enforcement are made: 1. Not all pit bulls are vicious dogs and not all vicious dogs are pit bulls. Breed bans do nothing to enforce responsible ownership and so do nothing to decrease the chance of being bitten/attacked. They do not address the problems of chaining/isolation, abuse, and dog fighting. All they ensure is that to avoid hassle, dog fighters will move to new breeds while loving family pets are murdered to make you feel better. Which breeds shall we ban next? What happens when the dog fighters move to dobermans, rotties, german shepherds, akitas, tosa inus, mastiffs, even chows? I guess that we don’t need them either. Then we can get rid of all large breeds because they inflict more damage than small dogs. Oh but wait, small dogs can still hurt little children…so I guess we will have to at least work out ways to keep them seperated, or we’ll have to get rid of little dogs too.

  8. Oh, one of my kids was seriously injured on a public swing-set. Should we outlaw swing-sets? I’m sure MANY other children have also been injured on one.
    Also, MANY, MANY people have been injured or killed in auto accidents. Does that mean we need to ban cars??
    YOU are the one who needs to “get real”

  9. This is just terrible!! I have two sons with pitbulls and they are the most loving dogs you could have. I have a five year old grandson who calls his 11 year old pitbull his brother. He was raised with him since birth. My other grandson who is 7 months old also has a pitbull and the dog will lay with him on the floor, and is so gentle. My son had a pitbull that had to be put down because of cancer, and let me tell you that it was the hardest thing ever to do, she was loyal and just a sweetheart at 12.5 years. Please don’t ban these dogs, make sure that they get spayed or neutered in order to have them. It is not the dogs it is the owners that make these poor animals vicious. Any type of dog can be vicious, even a small one.
    Please don’t pass this. How cruel to take these dogs out of their loving homes and euthanize them. What has this world come to?! Please don’t pass this!!!!!JSJU

  10. I have a 5 month old Pit Bull, and he is harmless. He acts more like my cats then a dog. I have been bitten by a dog, but it was a mixed breed Shepard. Any dog can be dangerous, I could turn a pomerianian mean. Killing Pit Bulls is WRONG!!!! I think you should have insurance on them, but because of ignorant owners i have to give up my dog. Please don’t pass this law my dog did not do any thing wrong.

  11. Banning a specific kind of dog is just dumb! I don’t care who you are or what kind of dog you have, dogs, like people, are products of their environment and how they are raised,period!!
    The last thing we need is more government intrusiveness. Lets stop this nonsense now!

  12. I have met many pit bulls who were harmless but like everyone is saying any dog can attack right?well let me tell you I have a pit bull in my family and they are all muscle and God forbid a child does get attacked by one of them,no they all are not all mean if raised right but if I had to pick to be bitten by a pit or a poodle I will certainly take the poodle when pit bulls bite down you can’t just pry their mouths open like you can’t other dogs.They are very very strong and can easily over power a human that is why they are so dangerous I don’t think they should be illegal but I think they should definitely have a separate set of rules like liability insurance and a mussel in public places.

  13. I agree with most of what you said. However, I cannot agree on your last idea. If Pit Bulls need insurance, then all breeds should need insurance. Any breed can do damage, even if on a lesser scale.

  14. I would agree more to insurance on all breeds than just certain breeds. In Cincinnati a pit bull has to be microchipped, licensed, have a strong fence, and be insured. They can go to the dog park just like any other dog.
    My daughter has a pit bull who is one of the sweetet dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I volunteer with the local SPCA and no-kill shelter so I have met a lot of dogs!
    I know more children who have been bitten by Chihuahuas, Pomeranians and Lhasa Apsos than any of the big dogs that are listed as vicious. People are more likely to put children down near the little dogs and most of them are more likely to bite, not neccisarily out of being mean, but alot of dogs bite out of fear.

  15. i can’t STAND it when ppl think they need to fear pit bulls. i want one and my mother had said if i get one she wouldnt come over to my house anymore. the stigma on this breed is horrible. the only reason they are so good at being bad is because they LOVE to please their owner and if killing another dog pleases their owner they will do it better than anyone. these dogs are the best dog youll ever have since their need to please is so great ppl can train them to do just about anything. they are good at fighting because they were used for bull baiting back in the day they needed to be strong fighters to stand up to a bull. any dog can be trained to hurt ppl and dogs its just the way ppl train them and feeling fear when your around them only makes the dogs want to challenge you they are pack animals like all dogs and when faced with a non dominate fearful person they wanna show their dominace being scared of them doesnt help anyone treat them as you would any dog and you will get the same respect grow up people a dog is a dog the way this world is coming to we wont be able to own any dogs!!!

  16. actually if your kid was chewed up by any kind of dog you would be mad. so to ban one breed in hopes of stopping people from raising their dogs to be aggressive is pointless. So if you realy wanna go there. you can call me and we’ll discuss it in person no problem! =]

  17. My son and his friends were all pushing and playing and running with my pitbull today and did she bite any of the kids no because she has a obedient responsable owner when I was a alittle boy my family had a minature collie like lassie and I trained it to attack people soo that tells you its all about the owner my dog is great and I swear if anybody trys to take my baby from me I will be going to jail….. my dog did nothing to the goverment

  18. This is ludicrious and barbaric! I have a pitbull and she is like a baby! Ignorance breeds fear. The public needs educated. I cannot believe an educated person and one in public office no less, would consider taking this kind of action. Pitbulls are getting a bad rap because these are the dogs used most in dog fights and are trained to be aggressive, therefore are the dogs you see on the news most. ANY dog can be trained to be aggressive. Let me ask you, if your child comes home with a bloody nose because the bully at school beat him up, do we ban and euthanize all the bullies in the world? Sound crazy? Well this is just as crazy! Animals are more than just pets to those who own them, they are part of their family. And I can tell you if you try and take my baby that I have raised for several years, who is as gentle as a baby kitten, well you can better believe you will witness a 43y/o woman, (who by the way is pretty educated herself with a double masters degree) become more aggressive than any animal you could imagine! This man should never be voted into office again. This is no dictatorship Mr. Thorpe Yates, you live in the U.S.A. land of the free and home of the brave, so grow some you know whats and go visit a few pitbulls and get over you fear! I would love to know what type of research you have done and concrete data you have collected to support your claims that these dogs are more aggressive than any other domestic animal!

  19. You go get him girl i would do the same thing too.but i live in boston ma. where we treat animals alot better this that place 100% with you girl

  20. i’ve owned several breeds that were guard dog type dogs and was bitten by a shih- tzu and a chihuahua, never one of my big guard dogs. this law is rediculous the dog should have to pass a temperment test, if it doesn’t pass then you should have to carry the insurance. both of my son owns a pit bull and one son has a new baby and both dogs are fantastic with him and the play with other dogs and never once tryed to fight the other dog. this law was made by ignorant people any dog can be made vicious little dogs are by nature more aggasive than big dogs. big dogs are just capable of doing more damage than a little dog. If you have taken the time to properly train your dog than you don”t have any problems with your dog maybe dog owners should have to pass a test before they can own a dog because this law is based on ignorant owns who have created ignorant dogs. dogs are like your kids if you don’t teach them anything then you can’t be upset when the go rob or kill someone because that’s what you have created. but we don’t stop these parents from breeding or living in the same neighborhoods as us.

  21. thank you very much i own a pittbull and she is the sweetest animal you”ll every meet im sorry to the other people that has problems just they had problems doesnt mean my dog need insurance to the saftey to others….. i pittbull wouldnt hurt a flea…. i have a 5 year old and a 2year old and my lil neice comes around very often and shes been around my pittbull for over a year now and she only a year old my neice…… my pittbull has never giving me my family or friends or anyone a problem and now the courts and the justice system thinks their going to throw a bill like this smack dab into my face no ones taking my pittbull and putting her down not over my dead body!!!!!!!!


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