Parma Law Director Tim Dobeck doesn’t expect the Parma BSL law to be affected by the State of Ohio ending a 25-year-old Ohio law last month that automatically declared pit bulls to be inherently vicious dogs.
Although legislators are beginning to understand the damage done by singling out and discriminating against dogs based on their breed or appearance, Dobeck said the city retains home-rule powers when it comes to pit-bull regulations.
A Parma ordinance bans pit bulls in their city. Bully breeds are not even allowed to visit. The new bill does not pre-empt local powers. Rather than eliminate the pit-bull ban, the city has talked about tightening and increasing enforcement of it.
State Rep. Barbara Sears, R-46, who sponsored the new law said: “Parma should be able to keep its discriminatory legislation if it wants, but we hope they see that our legislation solves the (dog) problem without breed discrimination.”
The new dog-regulatory law will go into effect in May of this year. The law removes the term “pit bull dog” from the definition of “vicious dogs” in Ohio code. The pit bull was the only breed that was specifically named in Ohio law.
Under the old state code, “vicious dogs” and “dangerous dogs” were synonymous terms.
Under the new law there will be three categories for trouble canines. They will be classified as nuisance, dangerous or vicious dogs. Dogs and their owners will face penalties based on their behavior, not on their breeds, under the new state law.
Dobeck said the city has outlawed pit bulls since 1987 when council made the decision after several pit-bull attacks in Greater Cleveland.
The Parma law names American pit bull terriers, bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and any dog that contains elements of those breeds in their ban. But like all Breed Specific Legislation, it is enforced by a dog’s appearance, many of which suffer because somebody thinks they are a pit bull. The fact is that most people cannot correctly identify a pit bull when presented with a variety of breeds. Boxers, Bull Dogs and Rottweilers are some dogs that are commonly mistaken for pit bulls.
City Council President Sean Brennan said Parma has experienced problems with pit bulls over the years.
“People say pit bulls aren’t inherently vicious but from my experience people are breeding these dogs to be vicious,” Brennan said. “It’s a problem that I don’t want to see in my city.”
But Brennan’s comments just underscore the discriminatory nature of BSL; dogs are made to suffer because of the actions of irresponsible pet owners.
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