Two of Ohio’s largest cities have decided not to label dogs as
dangerous simply because they’re a certain type of canine, and a
proposal being considered by Ohio lawmakers would make a similar
change to state law.

Proponents of the changes say some types, such as those known
under the general term “pit bulls,” have been misrepresented and
it’s wrong to them single out, but supporters of existing
regulations that do just that say it’s better to be overly

The city council in Cleveland has decided to change its vicious
dog rules so the animals are classified by their behavior, not
because they’re a specific breed or type of dog, The Blade in
Toledo reported Sunday. Owners of dogs that attempt to or succeed
in harming a person or another pet are required to follow strict
regulations on how the dog is kept and how much liability
insurance they must have.

The changes mirror rules outlined in Toledo when it revamped its
dog regulations last fall.

Cleveland Councilman Matt Zone, who pushed for the changes there,
took his stance on the issue after rescuing a pit bull puppy that
was hit by a truck three years ago. The dog, Gordon, has become a
sweet, gentle member of his family, he said.

“It just seemed fundamentally wrong to say that a certain breed
is bad. That’s like me saying that all people that come from
northwest Ohio aren’t good people,” he told the newspaper. “In
today’s day and age to really determine and know what a breed is
(is) virtually impossible with all of the cross-breeding that
goes on.”

He said he closely followed the changes in Toledo and admired

“Too often you get council people who will try to make policies
based on fear or peer pressure that they’re hearing from the
community,” he said.

But some supporters of existing rules argue those concerns can
help protect people.

“I favor what works to save lives and pay medical bills for
victims,” said Olmsted Township resident Carol Miller, who was
attacked by a dog deemed a pit bull at a Cleveland-area park in
2007. “Law in Ohio has done this.”

State law currently defines a vicious dog as one that hurts or
kills another person, kills another dog or is among those
commonly known as pit bulls. It requires owners of such dogs to
confine them in some way while at home and restrain or muzzle
them while they’re off the owner’s premises.

Lawmakers are considering a bill, primarily sponsored by
Toledo-area Republican Rep. Barbara Sears, that would remove the
pit bull language from state law. It also would redefine how dogs
are classified as dangerous or vicious and would change the
requirements for keeping such a dog.

John Dinon, executive director of the Toledo Area Humane Society,
favors that kind of legislation.

“This whole obsession with `pit bulls’ I think is a distraction
for truly effective public policy on dangerous dogs,” Dinon said.
“The fact that people are now looking at dog behavior and owner
responsibility is a huge step toward making our communities and
Ohio safer places.”