January 23, 2012
LIMA — A statewide debate over what dogs should be considered dangerous hit Lima City Council on Monday.Council voted 6-1 to pass a resolution opposing an effort in the state Senate to eliminate dogs belonging “to a breed commonly known as a pit bull dog” from the definition of vicious dog contained in the Ohio Revised Code. Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin argued that the change would make it tougher for Lima police officers to protect residents and themselves, but two local dog trainers who spoke during Monday's meeting said any breed can be dangerous and singling out pit bulls amounts to canine discrimination.“This, I believe, is a people problem. This breed was not a problem until drug dealers started breeding them for vicious temperament. It is not a breed problem, it is a people problem,” said Diane Laratta, a dog trainer and occasional contributor to The Lima News.House Bill 14 would limit the term “vicious dog” to strictly define one that has seriously injured a person. The term “dangerous dog” would apply to one that has caused injury to a person or killed another dog without provocation. No specific breed of dog would be named in the state law.City Council updated its dangerous dog ordinance last year to allow police officers to immediately ticket someone who violates the law rather than taking it through the courts. The ordinance defines a vicious dog as one that either attacks a person, has the “propensity, tendency or disposition” to attack, or belongs to the breed commonly known as pit bulls.Both trainers said that, in decades of training thousands of dogs, they have never been bitten by a pit bull.“I've been bitten by other breeds. I really have trouble with dachshunds, but never have I been bitten by a pit bull,” Donna Klinger said. Councilman Kurt Neeper was the sole vote opposing the legislation. He said he voted in favor of the city's current law, but has since studied the issue and changed his mind.“I voted the wrong way and I always kind of wanted to find a better solution,” Neeper said. “Going to the length of declaring a pit bull and only a pit bull ... is too restrictive.”Councilors Jesse Lowe and Teresa Adams both said residents in their respective wards have praised the current law and believe it is keeping them safer.Martin agreed.“If we lose that ability to enforce that, my theory is we will see an increase in the number of people hurt by pit bulls, an increase in the number of pit bulls used by drug dealers for security, and an increase in dog fighting,” Martin said.The state Senate is expected to vote on the legislation later this week. Neeper said once the General Assembly makes up its mind, he will refer the local ordinance back to committee for more discussion.