Best Friends Blog

If a law doesn’t make sense, it’s probably a bad law

The dictionary defines prejudice as “an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts.” When prejudice is widespread, it suggests a prevailing environment of fear and ignorance. Institutionalized prejudice with regard to people is illegal.

Isn’t it strange then that a law that is so obviously based on a prejudicial judgment of dogs assessed on their appearance has managed to remain on the books in Ohio?

In Ohio, any short-coated, muscular dog with a blocky head can be declared vicious at birth because Ohio law regards pit-bull-type dogs as automatically vicious regardless of the individual dog’s behavior. The determination of whether or not a dog is a pit bull terrier is left up to the visual judgment of the local dog warden. So, if the dog warden decides that your boxer/Lab mix is a pit bull terrier based on appearance, your dog would officially be considered vicious and you would have to obtain $100,000 in insurance and keep your pet inside a chain link fence or other suitable enclosure. If you have two dogs like that, the dog warden can arbitrarily seize one.

Beyond the inevitability of misidentification of breed type, the law makes no sense whichever way you slice it because declaring all pit bull terriers as vicious is equally disconnected from reality.

This type of sweeping breed discrimination always stems from fear mongering and misinformation.

Best Friends speaks with authority regarding the fallacy of breed stereotyping. In January of 2008, 22 of the dogs who survived Michael Vick’s dog-fighting house of horrors came to Best Friends. (Lucas, pictured right, has broken many stereotypes as one of the Sanctuary’s most beloved Vicktory dogs.) They were all pit-bull-type dogs, and each one of them was an individual with a different personality. One of the reasons that we took on the Vick dogs was because they had been smeared as the worst of the worst by the media and even some animal organizations that wanted to see them put down. We knew that these dogs deserved to be treated as individuals, not dismissed as a category.

Despite the extraordinary trauma the dogs experienced in their former life, six have been adopted, one is in foster to adopt, seven spend their days in staff offices, while the rest are still working on their social skills and doing well at the Sanctuary.

At Strut Your Mutt in New York last weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the Vick dogs who is in his forever home. Cherry (pictured right, at the event)  is a sweetheart and seeing him participate in the walk with hundreds of other dogs was just confirmation of the fact that every animal deserves a chance at life and that stereotypes and prejudice have no place in the law when it comes to our best friends.

The Ohio Senate will be voting on a bill soon, HB14, that will change that state’s ill-conceived vicious dog law and replace it with a comprehensive dangerous dog and reckless owner bill that does not target dogs based on their appearance.

If you live in Ohio, please click here to contact your Ohio state senator.


Gregory Castle
CEO, Best Friends Animal Society




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  • Great news.  I sure hope it passes.  These dogs are truly the victims of persecution.  The Vicktory dogs helped show the world that these dogs are truly the victims in dog fighting and definitely misunderstood.  People need to be educated about these dogs and about responsible dog ownership and responsible breeding of dogs which will help all dogs in the end.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for doing this blog.  I sure hope plenty of people in Ohio will take action to stop this horrible discrimination of these poor dogs.  Thanks again for letting people know.  We cannot make it better for these dogs unless we speak up and try to change laws and educate people.

  • Denise

    I’m sorry but before Ontario passed a law there were several attacks, including of children, by pitbulls.   Since the law was passed here, no such attacks.  I admit maybe it isn’t something inherent in the breed — though apparently the strength in their jaws might indeed make them more dangerous than other breeds.  It is possible that the real danger comes from the way people train and treat them.  But the fact remains that attacks have gone down dramatically since the law was put in place.  Sorry, but to protect the public and children in particular, such bans ARE the only responsible way to deal with pitbulls.  I wish it was otherwise, as individual dogs may indeed be lovable and sweet.  But as long as you don’t propose another solution to what is a very real problem, I don’t see how you can responsibly oppose such bans.

    • Karla Bodaness

      In contrast, dog attacks have gone up significantly in the United Kingdom since BSL began.  Parliament began the process in 2010 of re-writing the law to focus on owner responsibility instead.  Dog attacks involving pit bulls may have gone down in Ohio, but did they go down with all breeds?  Education, not eradication, is the answer.  Please consider that we license, educate, require insurance for everyone who wants the privilege of driving a vehicle in our society.  The same could easily work with anyone wanting to own certain breeds.  This is a large discussion and I appreciate being able to participate. Thank you.

      • Anonymous

        I definitely agree about focusing on owner responsibility and education about what it means to be a responsible dog owner.

  • cgw

    I am really hoping this bill makes it since I volunteer at a shelter that does not breed discriminate and we have several wonderful “pitties”.  Each has their own unique personality just like any other dog.

  • Lori

    I have a wonderful pit that has helped me foster many puppies, older dogs, and even cats.  This breed isn’t for everyone, but that should be a personal choice…not one that is controlled by some ridiculous law.

  • Kim T

    I don’t live in Ohio, but I love hearing about progress regarding these sweet dogs!