by Mark Luedtke
A quick Google search of the top issues facing America turns up the economy, jobs, debt, etc., but nothing about dogs. But Americans are passionate about their best friends, so action by local city councils in Toledo and Cleveland initiated a snowball effect across Ohio. Both councils removed Pit Bulls from their automatic definition of dangerous dogs. Other Ohio cities including Kettering and Oakwood are considering the same. Since Pit Bulls have gone mainstream, representatives in the Ohio House spotted an opportunity to gain some votes, so they followed suit. This bill has yet to pass the Senate so it’s not yet state law.
Cleveland Councilman Matt Zone, who owns a Pit Bull, described the absurdity of labeling all Pit Bulls as dangerous, “It just seemed fundamentally wrong to say that a certain breed is bad. That’s like me saying that all people that come from northwest Ohio aren’t good people.” The same could be said for every law that institutionalizes group identities. Under the new city laws, dogs will be labeled dangerous based on their individual actions — if they attack a person or another dog — not their group identity. If only legislators were so enlightened regarding people, but pandering to group identity is a proven way to buy votes, so that will continue.
But the bigger question is why government dictates how we deal with dogs at all. Propagandists claim these laws make us safer, but they don’t. The best way to make sure dogs don’t attack other people is to hold owners solely responsible for their actions so courts will levy full liability against the owner for any unwarranted attack. These laws interfere with that personal responsibility and therefore the levying of liability, which makes it more likely an owner will allow his dog to attack somebody.
One way to determine the real motive behind laws is to follow the money. Every law steals money from some people and funnels it to special interests who then send a portion back to the politicians along with their votes. The reason laws have become thousands of pages long is legislatures are paying off so many special interests with each law. Ohio’s 1987 dog law paid off insurance companies. Owners of dangerous dogs were an easy target, relatively few, not popular and not politically connected, so government required them to carry $100,000 of liability insurance. No doubt the insurance companies wrote that provision of the law themselves and have enjoyed those profits extracted from citizens by government coercion.
Another way to determine the real motive behind a law is to see whom it targets. One of the reasons people buy dogs, and Pit Bulls in particular, is for self-defense. The requirement of $100,000 insurance policy made it impossible for poor people, those who are most in need of a dog which can protect them from predators, from being able to afford one. The laws also define how dangerous dogs must be chained and caged keeping them from being able to protect their owners and adding additional expense.
All gun control laws follow the pattern of the rich and powerful disarming the poor and minorities, making them easier victims for predators and less likely to rise up against their oppressors. Bans on Saturday night specials and AK-47s, inexpensive guns that poor people can use for self-defense, are a good example. This dangerous dog law is similar.
The $100,000 insurance policy and the restraining requirements on dogs will remain in effect. So in the best-case scenario, if a predator breaks into the house of a poor person, and that person’s dog bites the intruder, the poor person will likely lose the dog. In the worst case, the dog will be unable to protect its owner because it’s tied or caged and the owner will become a victim. Instead of making us safer as propagandists claim, government creates perverse incentives that benefit criminals, making our lives more dangerous.
If government really cared about making us safer, it would get out of our lives. In this case poor people would be better able to defend against predators, dog owners would do a better job of keeping aggressive dogs in check and those few dog owners who failed to keep an aggressive dog in check would pay appropriate compensation.
Who do you trust more to be honest, helpful, and brave — politicians or dogs? Which would you want by your side in a crisis? Most dogs exhibit the qualities we most admire in people. On the other hand we all know the old joke, “How can you tell when a politician is lying? His lips are moving.” It’s funny because it’s true. Politicians are masters of lying, cheating, stealing and violence. That we allow politicians to dictate how we handle our dogs is a travesty. We’d be better off to use our dogs to handle the politicians.
Removing Pit Bulls as a group from the list of dangerous dogs is a small, mostly symbolic step in the right direction, but the government is still looting and oppressing us with its dangerous dog laws.
Mark Luedtke is an electrical engineer with a degree from the University of Cincinnati and currently works for a Dayton attorney. He can be reached at MarkLuedtke@DaytonCityPaper.com