Ohio Supreme Court Rules Toledo’s Pit Bull Law Constitutional

Pit bulls

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that cities trying to regulate the number of pit bulls under one roof is constitutional.

This decision upholds a Toledo ordinance which limits dog owners to only one pit bull per household and sets requirements on confining pit bulls. When a pit bull is out, he must be muzzled and be on a specific kind of leash. The ruling also validates a state law that defines pit bulls as a “vicious dog.”

In an unanimous decision, the court reversed an appeals court ruling that said Toledo’s ordinance was unconstitutional.

Animal rights groups say that the laws should be focused on owners who train their dogs to be aggressive instead of singling out specific dog breeds.

The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed by former Toledo resident, Paul Tellings, who owned three pit bulls in violation of the city’s ordinance limiting households to one. The laws also impose liability insurance requirements and require the animals to be muzzled or otherwise confined when off their home property.

Tellings entered a plea of not guilty and then challenged the laws saying that they were unconstitutional. He challenged the part of the law that defines a “vicious dog.”

From Fox 19:

The trial court had extensive hearings, then rules that as a breed, pit bulls are not more dangerous than other breeds, but evidence supported the city’s claim that pit bulls are dangerous in an urban setting.

Based on that finding, the municipal court ruled the laws were constitutional. Tellings appealed to the 6th District Court of Appeals, which reversed the municipal court’s decision. The city appealed to the Supreme Court, and today’s ruling allows the laws to stand.

In the court’s opinion, Chief Justice Moyer wrote:

“The trial court cited the substantial evidence supporting its conclusion that pit bulls, compared to other breeds, cause a disproportionate amount of danger to people. The chief dog warden of Lucas County testified that: (1) when pit bulls attack, they are more likely to inflict severe damage to their victim than other breeds of dogs; (2) pit bulls have killed more Ohioans than any other breed of dog; (3) Toledo police officers fire their weapons in the line of duty at pit bulls more often than they fire weapons at people and all other breeds of dogs combined; (4) pit bulls are frequently shot during drug raids because pit bulls are encountered more frequently in drug raids than any other dog breed…. The evidence presented in the trial court supports the conclusion that pit bulls pose a serious danger to the safety of citizens. The state and the city have a legitimate interest in protecting citizens from the danger posed by this breed of domestic dogs.”

Chief Justice Moyer’s opinion was joined by Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger and Robert R. Cupp.

Justice Maureen O’Connor concurred in judgment only, and entered a separate opinion expressing her “disapproval” of the provision of state law classifying all pit bulls as “vicious dogs.” She wrote that data cited by the trial court regarding pit bull attacks did not reflect inherent violent characteristics of the breed but rather arose from deliberate efforts by some owners, including drug dealers, to increase a dog’s aggression and lethalness through abuse or aberrant training.

“Almost all domestic animals can cause significant injuries to humans, and it is proper to require that all domestic animals be maintained and controlled. Laws to that effect are eminently reasonable for the safety of citizens and of the animal,” wrote Justice O’Connor. “Because the danger posed by vicious dogs and pit bulls arises from the owner’s failure to safely control the animal, rational legislation should focus on the owner of the dog rather than the specific breed that is owned.”

8 Responses to “Ohio Supreme Court Rules Toledo’s Pit Bull Law Constitutional”

  1. Lynne says:

    The chief dog warden’s testimony reinforces the myths about pit bulls.
    1. When pit bulls attack they are more likely to inflict severe damage. I’d like to see the data on this. I’m guessing that the pit bulls referred to are those owned by people who have taught them to be aggressive. This would skew any data collected on the dogs. It is akin to saying that all men are sex offenders because the vast majority of sex offenders are male.
    2. Pit bulls have killed more Ohioans than any other breed. Again, those dogs were no doubt trained to be aggressive by their owners. I’d like to see an in-depth study of this.
    3. Police fire their weapons at pit bulls more often. A matter of perception. If someone is preconditioned to believe pit bulls are vicious, they will respond accordingly. Let’s not forget that police are most often responding to criminals and their surroundings. Which leads to
    4. Pit bulls are frequently shot during drug raids. All of this testimony hinges on the perception that all pit bulls are vicious when in fact the dogs they are referring to are the product of training.
    I stand by my belief that it is the owners, not the dogs, that are at fault here. Banning a breed does nothing and I am willing to bet that Ohio will not see a significant drop in such incidents as described above.

  2. catmom5 says:

    I agree with Lynne. If you have the perception that pits are more aggressive, more dangerous then you’re going to act differently based on that perception. This is a precedent that I’m very nervous about setting! When will people realize that most any animal can be trained to be vicious and aggressive? Get the bad owners and the problem will be taken care of.
    If I had pits I would move out of Toledo and keep my dogs.

  3. Sky Eyes Woman says:

    I’d also like to see the guidelines law enforcement officers are going to use to determine what is a “Pit Bull” and what is not, especially since just plain old “Pit Bull” is not in and of itself a breed. And what about dogs that are taken in from the street, with no information as to what breed it really is? Does it get confiscated and euthanized if it has a certain look?

    This is what is so wrong with BSL. It’s always very vague, hard to enforce properly and fairly, and VERY easy to abuse.

  4. Robert Davis says:

    Very sad to hear this news. Its the owners that should be held responsible, not a whole breed!

    The very idea that pits should be muzzled in public! what about dobermans or german shepherds….

    To be fair, however, I do muzzle my shepherd when he used to visit the vet - of course when the mobile vet comes by he is still muzzled just to be on the safe side - but that is his temperment…not how I raised him.

    This world has gone crazy making laws that don’t do alot to protect and then our borders stay completey open! Okay - another topic altogether.

  5. Lori B says:

    I am so tired of this pit bull steriotype. All dogs can be vicious it is just not pit bulls. I agree it is the owners. There are many dog bites a year and I bet we would be surprised that many of them are NOT pit bulls. The media has made it so people think these are vicious dogs. Years ago it was dobie and german shepards. Your sweetest dog could all the sudden bite you always have to be aware of that. I would bet that in a day there is lets say 5 dog bites and the only one you will hear about on the news is the pit bulls. I have 2 of the sweetest pits I would go to the supreme court before I would get rid of my dogs. Start making owners accountable for their dogs. If you have a dog that starts to act like they are going to have issues TRAIN them properly. You need to be the alfa dog and if they are trained then behaviors will be under control. We need to stop this pit bull steriotype. Many of the dogs that they call pits are not they are terriors of some kind.

  6. Greg More says:

    i think this ruling is personally shit!! because it is not the dogs fault that people made them into fighting dogs

  7. Robin McClelland says:

    I just hope the Justices are reincarnated as a Pit Bull. I have nothing more to say on it.

  8. bob toyer says:

    pit bulls should not be banned still all pit bull terriors arent agresive they are loving kind and heroric. As they steadily focus on banning the breed think are being hurt by this little boys, and girls who dont know why there dog is being tooken there life companions or handicap people who need a freind there alone so if your going to continue to take them and kill them as you say euthinize for no apparent reason kill them in front of the children and then you go home knowing your the man and what effect you had on someones life we need a judge who owns the breed before they just put away wth them what about micheal vick lets put him down or mike tyson he fights for money or even floyed these dogs dont fight becuase they want to they fight becuase they have to or they will be killed by there brutal and viciouse owners we should lock them in a cage with a so called viciouse dog i have no dis respect for other dog breeds dont single out pit bulls becuase if your house was in to a pit is taking the bullet for you when your german shepards under the bed pit bulls are starting to be used on law enforcements and are improving so ban the american soldier

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