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

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  • Kat

    Why, why, why, why are the irresponsible owners of this breed NOT being punished?? Why are these human beings, YET AGAIN, not being forced to take responsibility for the vicious pitbulls they created? And why is it not being taken into account all of the loving, wonderful bullies that exist??

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  • Pitbull_bitch17

    i live in ohio and i am trying anything and everything i can to help pass this bill i will move out of state if i have to before someone tries taking my dog me and my dog shouldnt have to suffer because people are ignorant someone will have to shoot me and kill me before i give up my dog people who dont like pits can kiss my a**!!!!

    • Beth

      hi there, i am a pit bull rescue in California and one of my volunteers are moving to Ohio and want to take their foster dog which is a hound/pit mix. At first I said no due to the laws there but then reconsidered as they are willing to do what it takes to take a dog there. How bad is it for people who have pits or pit mixes there?


    This is stereotyping and discriminition based on what facts? As an educated pit bull owner, how many times do we have to say it……PUNISH THE DEED, NOT THE BREED!!!!!

  • Connie Rajcevich

    Hmm, I just read that German Shepherds were the targets of stupidity in the 1970’s…Rottweilers in the ’90’s, etc. My family and I had Shepherds in the ’70’s and Rotties in the ’90’s. They were our loving and faithful pets, never vicious and never out of our well fenced large and private back yards. Still, Heidi, my Shepherd, died in my arms after someone had thrown her some meat laced with strychnine, and Roxie, the Rottweiler was put down by the vet after she’d been shot between the eyes with a pellet gun and paralyzed. These incidents took place in two separate states. This is outright murder and I don’t know what you’d call the pellet gun thing but no one investigates these things, which is wrong in itself. Those people are criminals but only the Big Guy that they don’t believe in will prosecute them. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge; stupidity is the refusal to learn.

  • MBS


    Ohio HB 14 did NOT make it onto the Justice Committee calendar AGAIN. …This is the same position that HB 79 died in during the 2010 session! We cannot let the momentum this bill has garnered die now! PLEASE, take a few minutes to ask your Reps to continue pushing this bill onwards.

    Representative Slaby is the head of the Committee of Criminal Justice.

    For the sake of Ohio ‘pit bulls’ like Gracie, who died last week thanks to Ohio law which disabled her shelter from adopting her out despite her wonderful personality and the love the shelter staff had for her


  • Kim

    If I lived in OH, I would support by signing the HB 14 petition. People making bad choices are the problem with any breed deemed aggressive/out of control by ‘society and politicians’. Responsible owners know better about their breeds as they have taken the time to do so.

  • Dottie

    We should all keep in mind the words of Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
    Mohandas Gandhi

  • Poolsidesano

    No breed should be punished just based on the breed or some incompetent person’s assessment of what he thinks the breed is. The is the most misunderstood breed of all time. If our legal system would focus on punishment and more control of breeding animals in general, ie… not just anyone should be able to breed a dog…then I think we would see changes in the problems of puppy mills and pit bull fighting. Only until then, innocent sweet dogs will be punished for human stupidity and greed. Why are were still punishing a breed when its the human who is the problem? By the way, I own two pit bulls and they are more balanced dogs than my labs!!! PUNISH THE DEED, NOT THE BREED…. PASS LAWS THAT CONTROL THE BREEDING OF ANIMALS PERIOD!

  • Anonymous

    Here I go again. The most over rated commodity on this planet is human intelligence. The most under rated is animal intelligence . If you don’t believe me, let me ask you, how well does your dog have you trained? As for cats. That’s a whole different training program. The whole pit bull controversy is just more human stupidity kinda like congress.

  • Pit Supporter

    I am from Ohio and wrote my representative to ask him to support this bill. I can only hope that he will do just that. A few years ago I found out that Pits aren’t the only breed discriminated against in Ohio, when I tried to get homeowners insurance for my new home. The insurance company I had been with for twenty years suddenly decided that I would have to put up a fence before I moved in to my new home or they would not insure me. Why? All because I owned a sweet 12 year old 38lb. husky-shepherd mix. I was told by the agent that her breed(s) were on an aggressive dog list. I refused to put up the fence and took my business elsewhere.

  • The people of OHIO should know BETTER than this!! Thats like saying that all humans are ignorant…Not all of us are…PITS are the best breed that ive ever been around. Believe me;ive been with all breeds in my life & PITS are my favorite!!

  • The people of OHIO should know BETTER than this!! Thats like saying that all humans are ignorant…Not all of us are…PITS are the best breed that ive ever been around. Believe me;ive been with all breeds in my life & PITS are my favorite!!

  • jen

    law makers are idiots!

  • nancy b

    i tried to support this bill as well, not being from ohio, i was unable to do so. this horrendous act of cruelty is based on ignorance and fear…majority of it being fueled by the media. how many reports, statistics do these need to understand that BSL does not work and the cost is astronomical. i cannot wrap my head around the mentality of government officials both in the state of ohio and denver. how can they pull a “family member” (that’s how i feel about my dog) and kill them. it has to stop!!!!

  • Tobey_11

    I wish I could help but I don’t live in Ohio (fortunately). I will post on facebook and twitter and hopefully others will support the bill.

  • Barb

    The true fault lies in who the dog is placed with. If any law makes sense it would be one that holds the owners accountable for the poor raising and training of any dog. Cocker Spaniels are known in the dog community to be the worst biters, but they do not make good press. Still it’s lack of good rearing that makes any dog into a biter. No dog is born that way.