Best Friends Blog

Born bad or just born in the wrong state?

Under current Ohio law, pit bull puppies are deemed to be vicious dogs as soon as they are born.

The Ohio law is notoriously unjust, but help is on the way. The Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates and Best Friends are spearheading the campaign to pass Ohio HB 14, which would repeal the only statewide breed-discriminatory law in the nation.

Ledy VanKavage, Best Friends’ senior legislative analyst and a long-time pit bull advocate, testified last week before the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee. She advised committee members, “Twelve states actually prohibit canine profiling. They enacted their provisions after Ohio passed its breed-discriminatory law. Why? Their research showed that canine profiling is not only expensive, but it’s ineffective in protecting the public.”

Ledy also pointed out that Ohio’s breed-discriminatory law costs Ohio taxpayers more than $17 million annually to enforce. Ouch! That’s a lot of money. (For more information on how much breed-discrimination can cost your community check out the Best Friends BDL fiscal impact calculator)

It’s actually a lot worse than that. The irony of all such breed-specific legislation is that it is anything but specific. In Ohio, as elsewhere, the breed of your dog is not determined by her genetic heritage, but by the opinion of a dogcatcher — and that’s scary. In a recent study of shelter workers’ ability to accurately identify breeds of dogs visually matched against a DNA test, shelter workers failed miserably, with a score of 25 out of 100. Any dog that a dog warden (Ohio lingo for an animal control officer) decides upon a visual inspection could be a pit mix — that is to say, anything with a blocky head and a short coat, like maybe a boxer/Lab mix — can be declared a vicious dog and easily end up on the wrong end of a needle. Breed-specific?

According to Jean Keating of the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, “Pit bull owners have no due process rights and as such, many non-pit-bulls have been killed because they looked like pit bulls.”

And pity the poor pit who enters an Ohio shelter. Because pit bulls are deemed vicious, state law discourages their adoption from public shelters. It is certain death for pit bulls in most shelters and pounds across the state. The Ohio law requires owners to purchase liability coverage and maintain locked fenced yards or keep their pit bull or pit-bull-looking dog confined in a locked pen. Owners may take them off their property on a leash only if it is six feet or shorter and the dog is controlled by a person of suitable age and size. This law has led to the deaths of thousands of family pets.

HB 14 needs to be passed — and we need your help to do it, especially if you live in Ohio. The bill was introduced by Representative Barbara Sears (R-Lucas County) but is drawing strongly bipartisan support. Click here to support HB 14.

Francis Battista

Co-founder, Best Friends Animal Society

  • Becky Dodge

    This law like all of the BSL ordinances in cities/towns across this country should be repealed. None of them are effective at what they said they were designed to do and in fact have caused the deaths of many dogs who were not the breeds targeted. Even in states where there are no statewide BSL laws many shelters, will not adopt out pitties. It’s one of the reasons why the kill rates are so high. I live in an area where there is no formal ordinance on the books but the local shelter does not adopt out pitties. When I asked them about it they said it was “because of their reputation” and “because they are used for fighting” and “because the city won’t let them”. In other words, lots of excuses. One of the shelter workers told me that “unofficially there is a city policy against adopting them”. That leads inevitably to a very high kill rate at the shelter. Whether or not a dog is labeled a pit bull depends entirely on what shelter worker is doing the intake form.

  • Spide3401

    What a very “hitler-ish” way of thinking…….rolls eyes in disgust!

  • Molly

    I live in Cleveland and will be participating in the Companion Animal Day in Columbus in April. I think we need to focus on forward movement. I am so happy to see the people of my state finally getting their act together. It in no way diminishes bad past action but we have to look forward in a positive way and make Ohio a pet friendly state for all companion animals.

  • Sue

    Instead of banning the breed States should require a form of licensing for the people who buy them or breed them.. a sort of background check with responsibilty clauses.. It is the animal parent that tends to be the problem… ONe time while walking one of my pits, Arthur (90 pounds) we were attacked by a doberman.. I had to put my hand down Arthurs throat to stop him from hurting the doberman ( he had a grip on him) and he never even scraped my hand… he was just protecting me.. my cat sat on his head/neck on movie nights…

  • Joniebabi

    Get real people……….. it is not the dog that is mean, it is the mean> horrible people that make dogs vicious>>>>>>>>.. pitbulls are the sweetest best dog in the whole wide world>
    Pass this law!!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t live in Ohio. I sure wish I could help. Wishing you all the luck in the world to stop this type of discrimination.

  • Kap55

    lLet us not forget it is not the breed but the handler/owner….lest we forget the atrocity of Michael Vick! Now that he is a vicious animal!!!!!

  • Kap55

    ludicrous,ignorant and just plain stupid!!! RIDICULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!! Get some knowledge Ohio!

  • EmilyS

    It’s so awesome to think that Ohio might change their law.. the folks there are doing a fabulous job. In addition to the real possibility of HB14, they’ve gotten rid of TWO notorious dog killer ACOs, including the vicious Tom Skeldon.

  • JulieJacobs

    This only allows you to support if u r in Ohio… do we have email & phone info to show our support? i’ll dig this up and post if i find it soon.

  • Bearsntiels

    If they are supposedly born bad, why were the victims of Michael Vick’s abuse rehabilated and now live in loving family homes?
    Yeesh! This beyond ignorance, no wonder our nation is in the mess it is.

  • 2bullterriers

    OK, doesn’t anyone of our supposed intelligent political leaders (an oxymoron in itself), read or pay attention to Cesar Milan? Dogs are bad, or out of control when they DO NOT have good pack leaders/owners etc. They are not inherently born bad. Dogs genetics are not like humans, they cannot be born psychopaths/sociopaths. Another case of misplaced fear & ignorance. I support the bill, but I live in another state.

  • Samiclwas24


    • Marie

      It’s funny how you’re accusing others of being ignorant, when in fact you’re being ignorant yourself. There are PLENTY of people in OH that love pits (including me), and I’ve been trying to change the opinion of those who don’t for a long time. You’ll find pit-haters everywhere.. A few of them just happen to be in charge of Ohio’s legislation. But the pit-lovers of OH are working VERY hard to change that.

  • Kikanuez

    Pet owners they handled this race and others to attack, for this is that they are stigmatized and how horrible the way they are treated, to the form of rape of females. About what is to legislate on cruel people, who profit from these races and when no longer serve … just kill them … is a horror and impotence …

  • Crittersister

    FINALLY…someone posted something intelligent about BSL — thank you! thank you!

  • james larson

    we have a 3 year old pit, and she is the most loving and careing dog i have ever seen. we will only have pits from now on. Fit the good fit.

  • Melissa

    Oh seriously OHIO law makers…stop being so backwoods stupid. Pit Bulls are no more vicious than any other dog. It’s just your closed minded ignorance that see’s them that way. Why don’t you get your heads out of your rear ends and put the blame where it belongs, on the people who breed these dogs specifically for fighting. Why don’t you kill them? Oh, wait, that would be cruel and inhumane. But, it’s ok to kill innocent dogs who have done NOTHING wrong? You people are seriously messed up.

  • Josephfamily6

    With logic like this, Michael Vick would have done nothing wrong.He would have been using the dogs for what they were meant to do. How horrible is that? We all know that Pits act according to the way there owners teach then to act. When are we going to get this right?

  • Linda Reptik

    This is just absolute stupidity! It’s also very, very dangerous. This bill HAS to be passed & any bill that will stop BSL & any, & all, breed targeted discrimination! If not…what will be next? Is this NOT the USA? There are quite a few breeds being targeted, if this keeps up, we won’t be allowed anything but lap dogs!!!! I don’t happen to own a Pit Bull, but I wouldn’t mind having one. I do like them. My breeds are German Shepherds (& Pekingese)…..Surely, they can’t consider Peke’s a threat, but then..they can bite ankles!! (sarcasm) Big brother will take my dogs away over my dead body!!!

  • guest

    I so agree. Once, while visiting a friend with my BABY BOSTON TERRIER, the gentleman (and I use that term loosely) living next door, who was outside in his unfenced your with his dog yelled to keep THAT PIT BULL away from his yard, or anywhere near the border to his yard OR ELSE. Boston Terrier? They are not even closely related! I will admit they do have the cutest little “boxy” head. What a horrible, horrible, law. Just think of the good all that money could be doing to educate people and finding homes for these poor animals. I am a supporter of Best Friends and hope to some day visit the sanctuary (I live in the North East).

  • Dobbins_karen

    this is a ridiculous, outdated and prejudiced law….anyone putting down a dog just because of his breed and not behavior, should be penalized to fhe full extent of the laws that exist for animal cruelty, i am a responsible american staffordshire terrier(pit bull) owner…what needs to be done is take this money to stop abuse and neglect of these wonderful pets.

  • Lin

    Ohio, please step up to the plate and end your atrocious cruel practice of killing these wonderful dogs. You have even killed dogs who are NOT of this breed just on the word of ignorant people. That is not right or fair. Please support HB14 and stop punishing these dogs! Thank you.

  • PitBullsRock22

    Thats major BS… Pit bulls are wonderful loving dogs.. I live in NM if there is anything i can do please feel free to message me…I own a 2 year old pit bull and he is the best dog ive ever owned.

  • Lovefelines2003

    I tried to support the bill, but it only allows one to do so if you live in Ohio….what can the rest of do that don’t live there?

    • Pitlover

      I would reply but they don’t allow bad language

  • Lovefelines2003

    This is a disgusting practice born of ignorance and misplaced fear. Think how many homeless animals that 17 million could save instead? I am going to click right now to support HB 14. Go Ledy!

    • The

      i know you lol lol olo lolo lololo