Ohio Gov. John Kasich gave homeless pit bull dogs a chance for a new life when he signed a bill on Tuesday that ended a 25-year-old state law that automatically declared the breed to be “inherently vicious.”
The law, which will take effect in 90 days, will allow animal shelters to find new homes for abandoned and owner surrendered pit bulls instead of the mandatory euthanasia of them. Ohio was the only state in the country to label a specific breed of dog vicious, based solely on their appearance.
House Bill 14 was overwhelmingly approved 67-30 by the state House on February 8.
The new law redefines how a dog is determined to be “vicious” or “dangerous.” It also created a third lesser category called a “nuisance” dog. Dog wardens will now have to prove a classification for an animal based on evidence of their behavior and owners will have a process to appeal a label.
“A well-meaning but poorly conceived law is no more, and it represents a victory for Ohio dogs and their people,” said Gregory Castle, chief executive officer of Best Friends Animal Society. The organization has been vocal about laws that discriminate against certain breeds of dog. They are currently working toward similar legislation in Florida.
“It ends the practice of causing undue hardship to thousands of responsible owners of entirely friendly, properly supervised, well-socialized pets,” Castle added.
The new law will also help owners of pit bulls who had to pay higher insurance rates for their pets or denied access to housing because their animals were automatically classified as vicious.
Not All Is Rosy
While the repeal will give homeless pit bulls a chance to find new adopted homes, those in the field like Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle worry about the underlying overpopulation problem of pit bull dogs.
“There are going to have to be an awful lot of places for them to go,” said Lyle. “It’s not like after the law changes, there are going to be 100 people at my door who want to adopt a ‘pit bull.’ They are going to continue to sit here, and we will continue to have to euthanize them. Warehousing them is not the humane alternative.”
Warehousing dogs is a term used when homeless animals sit and languish in animal shelters for months on end. Many eventually go “cage crazy” because they cannot handle the stress of being institutionalized.
When Lyle learned about House Bill 14 passing she started contacting nearly two dozen animal rescue groups in her area to see how they could work together to find homes for the influx of pit bulls she anticipates at her shelter. Unfortunately Lyle has only heard from two rescue groups that could help.
She also talked to animal shelters in other Ohio counties and they are gearing up for the same problem.
Lucas County plans to focus their efforts on spaying and neutering pit bulls to prevent overpopulation. They have been working with Humane Ohio for the past year and have fixed 347 dogs, but will step up their numbers to get to 500 dogs fixed as soon as possible.
While this may be a new challenge for Ohio animal shelters, at least pit bulls in the state will be given a chance for long and happy lives.
Photo Credit: walkadog