Tuesday, August 24, 1999

Council to review ban on pit bulls

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati will consider a proposal to lift its ban on pit bulls, and instead require vicious dogs of all breeds to be tattooed, fitted with a microchip under the skin and registered with the police.

        The proposal will be reviewed by City Council next week.

        Cincinnati banned pit bulls in 1986 because of their powerful bite and tenacity. They can be especially dangerous to children, said Harold Dates, general manager of the Hamilton County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

        But the law banning Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers is sending too many good dogs to the pound, Mr. Dates said.

        The SPCA has 45 pit bulls in custody, waiting for a judge to decide their fate.

        “Simply saying you can't have this dog hasn't eliminated the problem,” Mr. Dates said.

        Instead, a task force that prepared the proposed law sought to allow people to keep the dogs.

        “There are certain pit bulls that are nice dogs,” said Dr. Bob Hartshorn, a veterinarian who was on the task force. “Pit bulls have gotten a bad rap. Just like any other dog, when they're trained to be bad, they're bad.”

        The proposed law would define “dangerous” and “vicious” dogs by deed, not breed, said Norma Bennett Woolf of Ohio Valley Dog Owners Inc., a coalition of dog clubs and dog owners.

        “A dog would have to do a bad thing before it was labeled vicious,” said Ms. Woolf, a member of the task force.

        A vicious dog is one that severely injures someone without provocation, that has been trained to fight, that has been used to commit a crime or that is “commonly defined as a pit bull.”

        That last definition is part of Ohio law, task force members said, so the city law could not soften it.

        It means that any dog that looks like a pit bull would have to have the same identifying tattoo and microchipunless its owner has papers to prove it is not a Staffordshire Bull Terrier or one of its mixes, Dr. Hartshorn said.

        Owners of vicious dogs also would be required to take out $50,000 in liability insurance to protect against injury or death caused by their dogs.


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