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Ohio BSL news

LL1
March 4th, 2006, 01:12 PM
Saturday, March 4, 2006

Pit bulls Toledo's vicious-dog law declared 'unreasonable'

Celebrating the court victory yesterday are, from left, Jody Offenburg with Paul Tellings and Ms. Offenburg's daughter, Alexandra, 2; Justice, a bulldog; Mr. Tellings; Chance, a pit bull, Ms. Offenburg's sister Zita Offenburg, 17; Paul, Jr., 5; and seated, Jasmine, 6.
( THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER )

By ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER


Toledo's vicious-dog ordinance restricting pit bull ownership was struck down yesterday as "unreasonable" by a 2-1 vote of the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals.

Judge William Skow, who wrote the majority opinion for the three-judge panel that decided the case, also deemed unconstitutional portions of the Ohio Revised Code upon which the Toledo law was based.

The city ordinance allowed residents to own only one dog considered vicious. It relies on the state definition, which defines a vicious dog as one that has bitten or killed a human, has killed another dog, or "belongs to a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog."

"Since we conclude that there is no evidence that pit bulls are inherently dangerous or vicious, then the city ordinance limitation on ownership is also arbitrary, unreasonable, and discriminatory," Judge Skow wrote. "If a citizen may own more than one nonvicious dog of a particular breed, then ownership of more than one nonvicious pit bull has no rational, real, or substantial relationship to a legitimate government interest."

Judge Arlene Singer joined

Judge Skow in the 2-1 ruling; Judge Dennis Parish dissented, but filed no written opinion with the court. He could not be reached for comment last night.

Acting City Law Director John Madigan said the city will appeal the appellate court's decision to the Ohio Supreme Court. He declined to speculate how yesterday's decision would affect state law.

The appellate ruling is a long-awaited victory for pit bull owners and supporters, who have advocated punishing the deed of an individual dog, not the breed. It overturns a 2004 ruling by Toledo Municipal Court Judge Francis Gorman that said the city's vicious-dog law may be unfair but is not unconstitutional.

For Paul Tellings, the East Toledo resident who brought the case to court, the ruling meant that he could take his dogs - two pit bulls and an American bull dog - for a walk yesterday without breaking the law for the first time in years. He said that pit bulls are like any other dog and will be vicious only if raised or trained that way.

"If you have somebody who is beating a dog, or neglecting a dog, that's when dogs get a temperament," said Mr. Tellings, 31, who has two small children in the home with his dogs. "My dogs are spoiled. If you treat your dogs like family, they'll act like family."

The decision is a blow for the Lucas County dog warden's office, which enforced Toledo's ordinance. Yesterday, deputies were given instructions to no longer cite owners who have multiple pit bulls, who do not have insurance on the animals, and who do not have them properly contained whether in their yard or while walking them.

Dog Warden Tom Skeldon, an advocate for breed-specific legislation, said that the decision all but takes away his ability to protect the public from vicious dogs.

"We're not in the pit-bull business anymore. We're not in the vicious-dog business anymore," Mr. Skeldon said. "They've taken away our ability to enforce containment, whether it's a German shepherd or a pit bull, whether it has bitten somebody or not."

He added that the recent case where a Presa Canario and American bulldog mix attacked a 12-year-old Oregon girl would not be affected by the ruling. Both breeds have been determined to be "commonly known as a pit bull" in separate rulings in Toledo Municipal Court.

The dog attacked the neighbor girl Tuesday as she was standing by a cage its owner was trying to place it in. The attack, witnesses said, was unprovoked.

Mr. Skeldon said the dog was surrendered to him by the owner and will be destroyed after it is determined it does not have rabies.

The victim, Nicole Brown, was in fair condition yesterday at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. The dog warden said her legs were severely bitten in the attack.

After reading the appeals court ruling, Rebecca Zietlow, a law professor at the University of Toledo, said Toledo's law "failed to provide dog owners a meaningful opportunity to be heard on whether a dog is vicious or dangerous."

"If Toledo wants to limit the ownership of vicious dogs, it would have to enact another law that doesn't have these procedural problems and that doesn't single out pit bulls," she said.

Glen Bui, the vice president of American Canine Foundation, said his organization supported Mr. Tellings and his attorney, Sol Zyndorf. He said his organization has long advocated for stricter laws against dogs that have proven themselves vicious but has fought laws throughout the country that point to all pit bulls as dangerous.

Mr. Bui called yesterday's ruling "monumental." He said attempts to create breed-specific legislation have "gotten out of control" across the country.

"This is the first time ever in the United States that a published opinion has ruled that breed-specific legislation is unconstitutional," he said.

Mr. Skeldon said pit bulls who are collected by his office because they are running loose will still be subject to an additional $100 fee beyond fees charged other dog owners. That fee was approved by the county commissioners, the dog warden said, and will continue to be collected until the office is legally told otherwise.

In spite of yesterday's setback, Mr. Skeldon said he still intends to travel to Ontario tomorrow to testify on behalf of breed-specific legislation.

Contact Erica Blake at:
eblake@theblade.com
or 419-724-6076.

mastifflover
March 4th, 2006, 01:17 PM
If only he can convince our brain dead politians how wrong they are.

jesse's mommy
March 4th, 2006, 01:35 PM
It's a start, but the battle is far from over. Hopefully people will see this and start to take notice and make the right decisions by not singling out a particular breed. I'm still hopeful for everyone (including me) who is fighting to break the prejudice of owning a pit bull. The good will triumph and evil will fall. (I feel like it's a LOTR battle.)

Georgiapeaches
March 4th, 2006, 02:41 PM
I don't understand how Ontario's government decided to use Skeldon for testimony on their behalf? How is he an "expert", he is a dog warden.

Yay for Ontario's government using Skeldon's testimony, when his own area just deemed their bsl unconstitutional!! They suck.

LL1
March 4th, 2006, 02:53 PM
He was probably chosen as he agrees with the ban and "considers all 'pit bulls' to be vicious".

I don't understand how Ontario's government decided to use Skeldon for testimony on their behalf? How is he an "expert", he is a dog warden.

seeker
March 4th, 2006, 06:16 PM
He was probably chosen as he agrees with the ban and "considers all 'pit bulls' to be vicious".
Agreed ! And if Ohio had upheld the law it would have been presented to the court by the Ontario gov representatives as "see even US administraters argree with us" Now it will be quoted as " It's the American system , it doesn't apply to us " .
Hopefully the credibility of this "STAR" witness will be a little less credible now that his testimony wasn't regarded as "gosple" by the Ohio court.

babyrocky1
March 4th, 2006, 06:44 PM
Agreed ! And if Ohio had upheld the law it would have been presented to the court by the Ontario gov representatives as "see even US administraters argree with us" Now it will be quoted as " It's the American system , it doesn't apply to us " .
Hopefully the credibility of this "STAR" witness will be a little less credible now that his testimony wasn't regarded as "gosple" by the Ohio court. For sure, it looks good for us no matter what, it will remain to be seen how good, but it sure cant hurt, especilay when they use American stats to back up alot of there claims!

wdawson
March 5th, 2006, 09:41 AM
also sounds like he is worried about his job as he is not in the pit bull business anymore:D

twodogsandacat
March 5th, 2006, 10:43 AM
Dog Warden Tom Skeldon, an advocate for breed-specific legislation, said that the decision all but takes away his ability to protect the public from vicious dogs.

"We're not in the pit-bull business anymore. We're not in the vicious-dog business anymore," Mr. Skeldon said. "They've taken away our ability to enforce containment, whether it's a German shepherd or a pit bull, whether it has bitten somebody or not."

Yep I think that's the point. You weren't in the vicous dog business you were in the pit bull business. Judge Skow certainly made the point with the statement below. Still Skeldon will testify in Ontario in support of BSL?

Judge Skow wrote. "If a citizen may own more than one nonvicious dog of a particular breed, then ownership of more than one nonvicious pit bull has no rational, real, or substantial relationship to a legitimate government interest."

wdawson
March 5th, 2006, 10:55 AM
here is another

twodogsandacat
March 5th, 2006, 11:04 AM
Here is a link to the story posted by wdawson just in case any one wants a 'pretty' copy. Let's hope Skeldon is as sucessful here as he was in Ohio court of appeals. The man looks like a dweeb and I hope that isn't lost on the judges.

http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060303/NEWS02/603030384

Luvmypit
March 6th, 2006, 10:26 AM
WHAT I want to know is whats on Sunday?? It says very clearly that he is coming to testify on SUNDAY?? Is it that the government wants to talk to him regarding this and have him testify at the coming court date?? Or are they having some closed door thing to see if they have a case?? Or I am I really lost and I am the only one who doesn't know what the heck he is talking about?

He sounds really smart... A presna is also considreed a pit bull? I would like to know what dogs aren't considered pit bulls. I mean really ...

Listen if this is what they consider one of their star witnesses I hope this is just a prelude to what kinda of experts they will bring in. I do assume that advocates lawyer will have many an expert.
It seems a plus to me if this dude comes and all Clayton has to say is so how did that case go for you in Ohio? And why did they find what they found. This has to be a blow to Ontario regardless of which way they play it off. The guy look slike bubbles from the trailer park boys.

Sorry dont mean to be mean but I just don't understand what qualifies him to testify?? I hope if this is a witness for Ontario that Clayton asks him his qualifications. Someone tell me what is on Sunday?