Debate Forum Topic, 7/12/11

Ohio House votes to remove breed identification from controversial Vicious Dog Law

A Pit Bull

A Pit Bull

On June 28, the Ohio House of Representatives passed HB 14, eliminating the statewide designation of Pit Bulls as vicious animals in favor of punishing aggressive or dangerous dogs “by deed, not breed.” Since 1987, Ohio has had comprehensive legislation regarding vicious or violent dogs. Dogs can be labeled “dangerous” or “vicious” by the state of Ohio due to menacing behavior or unprovoked attacks, and thereby be subject to stringent controls or euthanasia. According to the Chapter 955.11 of the Ohio State Revised Code,

(4)(a) “Vicious dog” means a dog that, without provocation and subject to division (A)(4)(b) of this section, meets any of the following:

(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.

(iii) Belongs to a breed that is commonly known as a Pit Bull dog. The ownership, keeping, or harboring of such a breed of dog shall be prima-facie evidence of the ownership, keeping, or harboring of a vicious dog.

The American Pit Bull Terrier is the only breed singled out as being inherently vicious and the only breed specifically mentioned in Chapter 955.

The controversy surrounding private ownership of snub-nosed fighting dogs and large home defense breeds stirs up intense emotions on both sides of the aisle. Proponents of banning animals which have been specifically bred for traits such as muscular, vise-like jaws and overt aggressiveness argue that these dogs are an inherent danger to society.

Opponents of such legislation take the equally polarized viewpoint that the blame for violent behavior can be largely attributed to improper or vicious training.

Of all the breeds which evoke images of frothy snarling teeth — Rottweiler, Bull Mastiff, Akita ­— there is one dog which consistently finds its name at the top of the list: the Pit Bull.

The title alone gives away the purpose of the breeding. Pit Bulls were originally bred to maximize the fighting abilities of a Bulldog (animals whose comic physiology was, oddly enough, designed for fighting bulls). Stocky legs allowed the dogs to jump high enough so their powerful underbite could crush a bull’s throat, and the wrinkly forehead served to channel blood away from their nose and eyes) and they had the energy and stamina of a terrier. The result was a highly successful bull-baiting breed with incredible stamina and powerful bite strength.

As dog fighting gained popularity, the natural physical advantages of the “Bull Dog” led it to become a champion in the dog pit. Hence, “Pit” was added to the name. Despite this designation, Pit Bulls were commonly depicted as companion dogs in film and television for children, such as the iconic ring-eyed Pete the Pup from Our Gang. However, as dog attacks began to become better understood in terms of breed, serious issues surrounding private ownership of Pit Bulls began to come to public attention.

From 1982 to 2007, Animal People editor Merritt Clifton compiled a list of reported dog attacks in Canada and the U.S. by breed. This list was by no means considered comprehensive, as it did not include any cases which were not reported to authorities, actions by guard dogs and police dogs, or any cases in which a specific breed type could not be identified. A trend against Pit Bulls immediately became clear. Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes were cited well over a thousand times for attacks on both adults and children, with the next most frequent breed, the Rottweiler, being cited fewer than 500. The average statistics for dogs generally considered menacing, such as Akitas and Mastiffs, ranged around 30.

Another statistical divergence noted with Pit Bulls is that they appear as likely to attack adults as children, possibly indicating that their behavior is more instinctive than circumstantial.

Whether the Pit Bull is a born menace, a tragic victim of its upbringing, or somewhere in between, the wisdom of House Bill 14 will remain to be seen. Certainly, the depth and vitality of the argument is rooted in the reality that the dog is our most human animal companion. He is man’s best friend, a member of our family and our most timeless symbol of faithful companionship. Since domestication 15,000 years ago, we have bred dogs for both work and pleasure, and virtually every dog is a blend of these traits. Within every furry friend there is some lesser or greater degree of the wolf or wild dog from which they came and an almost infinite number of temperamental interjections on the part of the humans who own them. Ultimately, what makes a dog so human is that it is essentially a reflection of ourselves, with all our strengths and frailties. When we ask whether a breed of dog should be treated as inherently flawed, perhaps we are really asking where the dog ends and its humanity begins.

Forum Center Question:

Were Ohio lawmakers correct in passing a measure to the current Vicious Dog Law, nixing breed identification? Or is the breed identification (specifically Pit Bulls) necessary to keep citizens safe?

5 Responses to “Debate Forum Topic, 7/12/11” Subscribe

  1. Eric Specht July 15, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    I know a lot of people who own these wonderful dogs and it’s about time they put an end to state sanctioned discrimination. People should all be looked at as individuals and judged by their deeds and not their race. The same goes for dogs. As the rallying cry of the pro pit bull community goes “Judge the deed not the breed”. Amen.

  2. Anonymous July 15, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    Dogs are not humans, therefore do not require the same “fairness” in governance. Pit Bulls are statistically vicious, commonly bred for their aggressiveness and while legally declaring them as such may come at the cost of a few of the calmer ones, it saves the lives of human adults and children. We have common sense and should use it to protect ourselves from attacks by the unpredictable Pit Bull breed. Breed identification is quite necessary to protect citizens. How are we to distinguish, then, the nice pitbull from the mean? Give them yellow collars? Brand their flanks? Wait to see if they kill someone?

  3. Rana Odeh July 20, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    I do not understand why everyone is getting so worked up by me stating that breed specific laws toward pit bulls is necessary for safety. The law does not affect the dogs, it only affects the dog owners, and helps to protect the public. What are you all worried about, their emotional distress? The pit bulls would not be physically or mentally abused by a written law that requires proper containment and insurance. If you choose to own a pit bull, that’s your decision, you should just be held accountable and you should be extra careful. I’m not out to harm pit bulls or any animals/people, so relax.

  4. Ashley McDaniel August 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    I am a PROUD OWNER of 2 American Pit Bull Terriers! I was raised with 2 pit bulls who were my best friends! I love my dogs with all my heart and there is no better breed out there in my opinion! Growing up, I was taught how to correctly raise a Pit Bull. It is not the breed that is causing this problem with attacks on people and children, it is the OWNER!! You all need to think that through a little. Pit Bull’s were used as ‘nanny dogs’ In the mid 1900’s. While the father was out working and supporting his family and the mother was cooking, cleaning, etc. they used a Pit Bull (Nanny Dog) to watch the children play while the parents were busy! Pit Bull’s are Americas breed of dog and you are doing nothing but turning your backs on our dog! Also, President Theodore Roosevelt and President Woodrow Wilson both owned Pit Bulls. Helen Keller had a Pit Bull. Here are very FEW other celebrities who have owned/do own a Pit Bull:
    Jon Stewart of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart owns two pit bulls: Shamsky & Monkey.
    Ken Howard, award-winning actor from Crossing Jordon, was saved by his pit bull Shadow during a medical crisis.
    Movie star Alicia Silverstone owns a rescued pit bull named Samson.
    Adam Brody gave girlfriend and O.C. co-star Rachel Bilson a pit bull named Penny Lane as a birthday gift.
    Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, TV Personality Rachael Ray and Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker Joey Porter all own two pit bulls!
    Jessica Biel has a pit bull named Tina, and Jessica Alba owns a pit bull puppy.
    Singer Kevin Federline, radio personality Ira Glass, actor Fred Astaire, General George Patton, actor Michael J. Fox, actor Jan Michael Vincent, actor Jack Dempsy, Thomas Edison, singer Madonna, movie star Brad Pitt, actress Bernadette Peters, comedian Sinbad, actress Linda Blair, actor Humphrey Bogart, musician Usher, comedian Mel Brooks, actress Ann Bancroft, singer Pink, actress Eliza Dushku and actress Kelli Williams are just a few other celebrities who own or have owned a pit bull.
    Here are a few other ‘famous’ Pit Bulls:
    Petey from The Little Rascals.
    Grunt from the 1983 movie Flashdance.
    Tige from Buster Brown shoe advertisements.
    The dog in the film Snatch is a pit bull.
    Jennifer Lopez used a pit bull in the music video “I’m Glad”.
    Veronica Mars from the UPN show of the same name owns a pit bull named Backup.
    The pit bull was so respected in the early 1900’s that the military chose an image of a dignified pit bull to represent the country on WWI propaganda posters.
    The pit bull is the only breed to have graced the cover of Life Magazine three times.
    And a few more facts:
    Helen Keller had a pit bull as a family pet.
    Dakota is a pit bull search and rescue who searched for the remains of the astronauts who lost their lives in explosion of the space shuttle Columbia.
    Popsicle, who received his name after police found him in a freezer during a drug raid, is famous for sniffing out drugs for the DEA.
    A pit bull rescued in South Los Angeles by County Fire Station 14 during 1985 was the station’s mascot for years.
    TAKE THE TIME AND DO YOUR RESEARCH PEOPLE!! YOU ARE TRYING TO BAN AMERICAS MOST BELOVED BREED!!! AND ALL YOU CHIHUAHUA OWNERS..MY MOTHER HAS TWO CHIHUAHUAS AND I HAVE 2 PITBULLS ALL IN THE SAME HOUSE..MY PITBULLS HAVE MARKS AND SCARS ON THEM FROM THE CHIHUAHUAS ATTACKING THEM. WHEN THE CHIHUAHUAS ATTACK MY PIT BULLS.. MY PITBULLS EITHER BACK AWAY FROM THEM, YELP OR RUN UP TO ME! DO YOU REALLY, HONESTLY THINK THAT SOUNDS LIKE A VICIOUS DOG??!! IN MY OPINION, CHIHUAHUAS ARE MUCH, MUCH MORE AGGRESSIVE THAN PIT BULLS BUT THEIR JUST NOT VERY STRONG. Please, Do a little research, maybe go to a local Pit Bull Shelter and give them a chance to show you how sweet and loving they really are! I love animals (no matter what kind or breed) theres many other breeds of dogs that I have tried to own or want to own but I just can’t find myself owning any other breed besides a Pit Bull! Once you own one, you will fall head over heels for it! My Pit Bull’s are like children to me. I would not be able to cope if someone tried to take them away from me. My HEART BELONGS TO A PIT BULL!! — Along with many other loving Pit Bull owners out there! I pray you can see the truth and reality about Pit Bulls!

  5. Ashley McDaniel August 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    @ Rana Odeh —
    The reason people are getting so worked up is because as long as that law sticks.. Pit Bulls are and will be put down in almost every single humane society or animal shelter!! Don’t you understand that at all!!?? You and all the people like you are KILLING perfectly innocent dogs just because of your own STUPIDITY!!

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