Thursday, December 11, 2003

Owners must register pit bulls

By Liz Oakes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SPRINGFIELD TWP. - Residents who own pit bulls have two months to get their dogs registered as "good citizens" or face possible removal or destruction of their animals under a new township ordinance.

Trustees on Tuesday passed a resolution banning ownership of unregistered "vicious dogs" within the township.

Pit bulls - a term that refers to several types of dogs with similar characteristics, including a strong jaw, muscular build and a wide head - are considered vicious dogs under Ohio law.

Other dogs also may be considered vicious under state law if they injure a person or kill another dog without provocation.

The new ordinance, which takes effect Jan. 8, comes on the heels of dozens of complaints about pit bulls to township police. Owners will have 30 days after the resolution goes into effect to get a temporary permit to keep their animals.

About three years ago, it was rare for the township to receive such complaints, said Trustee Gwen McFarlin. But last year, Springfield Township recorded 161 dog-complaint calls between November 2002 and last June, the majority about pit bulls, she said.

This year, police officers in the township were attacked three times by pit bulls, she said.

A growing number of area communities have been cracking down on pit bulls and other dogs considered vicious.

Last month, a ban on pit bulls in the city of Cincinnati went back into effect, four years after it was lifted. City Council had permitted pit-bull ownership with registration and stringent controls, but went back to the ban after learning that only 11 city residents had registered their animals.

Elsewhere, the village of Mariemont in July added a vicious dog law, and in June, Covington approved tough new restrictions, too. Madeira has been considering vicious dog ordinance as well.

Under the new Springfield Township ordinance, pit bulls or other vicious dogs must be kept confined by their owners, or muzzled and on the leash of someone able to control them.

Owners also must show proof of $50,000 in liability insurance on the animal, up-to-date shots and a valid Hamilton County dog license. The township also wants proof that the dog has completed training as a "Canine Good Citizen," a behavioral course offered by many dog obedience schools.

Enquirer reporters Steve Kemme and Sheila McLaughlin contributed. E-mail

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