Hot in Cleveland: Ohio City Changes its Dangerous Dog Law

Tuesday night, the Cleveland City Council made history when itrevised itsvicious dog ordinance. The Council voted to amend part of theCity's viciousdog ordinance, changing the...


Tuesday night, the Cleveland City Council made history when itrevised itsvicious dog ordinance. The Council voted to amend part of theCity’s viciousdog ordinance, changing the focus of the vicious dog label from the breed, to the behavior of the animal. This means that in Cleveland, pit bulls are no longer considered vicious dogs.

Cleveland sets a shining example for other communities around the country that have either considered or actually implemented breed specific legislation. The City Council’s decision is wonderful news, not just forOhio’s dog lovers of all ages, but for all dog lovers, all over the country. When one breed of dog isthe target ofbreed-based discrimination, all dogs are at risk.

Our previous law clearly targeted one breed, the pit bull, as a vicious animal, said Councilman Matt Zone, who introduced the legislation, and is himself the proud owner of a rescued pit bull that he found on the street near his office. The breed of a dog is not an indicator of its personality.Any dog who is poorly trained and neglected, can be vicious and a threat to our community.These revisions shift the focus from the type of dog, to its behavior and neglectful actions of its owner.

The people of the Cleveland Animal Protective League applaud Councilman Matt Zone and Cleveland City Councils Public Safety Committee for unanimously voting to move one step closer to enacting a breed-neutral dangerous/vicious dog ordinance, said Sharon Harvey, executive director of the Cleveland Animal Protective League. “Not only will this new ordinance better address public safety by enhancing enforceability and stiffening the punishment for owners of dogs that pose a real threat, not just a perceived threat by virtue of their breed or appearance, but its the right thing to do as a humane community.We also commend Chief Animal Control Officer John Baird for his progressive mindset around animal welfare issues in our city.

There are many responsible owners with good pit bulls, said John Baird, Chief Animal Control Officer for the City of Cleveland. In my years of experience it has become more difficult to identify, with certainty, if a dog is indeed a pit bull.Any dog can be vicious.I feel these revisions are fair and appropriate for our community.

Cleveland-based filmmaker and pit bull advocate Jeff Theman couldn’t be happier. His documentary, “Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent,” chronicles the removal of breed specific legislation in his home state.

“This basically is going to begin a domino effect,” Theman says. “It sparks an opportunity for other communities to follow suit and change the dog laws.” It will alsoenable more adoptions of pit bulls, who currently languish in animal shelters because potential adopters are fearful of so-called “vicious” dogs.

“I adopted my dog Preston in 2008, so this topic has become more and more personal to me,” Theman says. “I’vecommitted myself to helping endbreed discriminatory legislation,so that more people can experience the same thing I get: The unconditional loveand forgiveness thatpit bulls give with their whole heart. Changing these laws across the country will save dogs lives’ and enrich the lives of people.”

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