February 5, 2012
We're sure all the responsible owners of docile pit bulls are cheering their progress in the Ohio Legislature. But removing the label of vicious dogs from pit bulls is a mistake and fortunately it's one that still can be corrected at the local level.Pit bull owners and breeders have felt slighted ever since their dogs were added en mass to the list of what are considered vicious dogs in Ohio. In most cases, state law defines a vicious dog as one that has seriously hurt or killed a person, or that has killed another dog. But state law also classified the breed commonly known as pit bulls as vicious.The Ohio House last year passed a bill similar to the one the Ohio Senate passed two weeks ago. Differences between the two need ironed out before the measure goes before Gov. John Kasich. It's something Kasich should reject when it gets to his desk. Even if he doesn't, though, local governments still would have the ability to restrict ownership and handling of what local officials still might rightly consider potentially dangerous animals.Some dog wardens have opposed the state measure because of frequent pit bull attacks. Others told The Associated Press what the local breeders told Lima City Council: Pit bulls are not inherently vicious.Perhaps not, but so trained, they become much more dangerous than many other breeds. More than that, it's a breed of dog commonly used by the likes of drug dealers to protect their stash. That's why Lima Police Chief Kevin martin opposed the removal of pit bulls from the vicious dog list, and it's why he asked City Council to oppose the measure. Members of City Council voted 6-1 to oppose House Bill 14, which, unfortunately, had the support of most area lawmakers, including a former member of Lima City Council, state Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima.It will likely take away any enforcement authority that we have. We have had a lot of problems and issues regarding pit bulls in terms of both the risk and the danger that they pose to our citizens as well as the risk they pose to our officer. They have been the drug dealers' weapon of choice to guard drug operations, Martin told The Lima News before City Council voted to oppose House Bill 14.Removing pit bulls from the list of vicious dogs might have been the wrong thing to do for public safety, but it was the right thing to do for individual politicians. The issue is left to individual communities. Lima already had a dangerous dog ordinance. Lima appears in no danger of having to scrap that ordinance.But state lawmakers now will be able to say it's a matter for city councilors, not for them. We hope members of Lima City Council will show more backbone and more common sense than their counterparts in the Ohio Legislature did about police and public safety regarding vicious dogs.