kudos to Mr. Smith and the OCDA. We need more committed owners like this, who won't just allow themselves or our dogs to be run over by Un-Constitutional Laws. These bad laws don't get changed by just complaining about them, you have to actually fight for your rights in Court! In case no one else has noticed, we might be getting run over by the h$u$ on the laws since they have the $$, but we've been winning against them in Court a lot. Judges are generally not bought off as easily as Politicians and Cops. Thank goodness they tend to have a mind towards what's right and lawful rather than who donated what or 'popular' opinion polls.
Judge says Toledo's 'pit bull' law flawed
Some aspects cited as unconstitutional
[removed old image]Toledo Municipal Judge Michael Goulding ruled in a case charging Hugh Smith with 13 violations.
January 21, 2010
By JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A Toledo Municipal Court judge's ruling yesterday found numerous aspects of the city's "vicious dogs" law unconstitutional, countering a ban on owning more than one "pit bull" and excluding "pit bull" mixed breeds as inherently vicious.
The ruling by Judge Michael Goulding involved the case of a Toledo man, Hugh Smith, who was charged with 13 violations of the city's dog laws in October. That month, the Lucas County Dog Warden's Office seized what it deemed to be three "pit bull" dogs from Mr. Smith's home after one of them got into a fracas with another dog as Mr. Smith was taking his three for a walk. The warden initially refused to give back Mr. Smith's dogs and cited him for having unmuzzled, uninsured, and improperly confined "pit bulls" as well as two too many "pit bulls." The city's vicious dogs ordinance restricts residents to owning only one "pit bull" and requires that owners keep the animal leashed and muzzled when it's away from home. Under Ohio law, dogs of a breed "commonly known as a pit bull" are deemed inherently vicious. Yet Mr. Smith's attorneys claimed that his dogs were in fact cane corsos - not "pit bulls" - and argued that the city's vicious dog ordinance was unconstitutional anyway.
|Judge Goulding yesterday dismissed 10 of the charges against Mr. Smith, asserting that the city's muzzle requirement and one-only limit for "pit bulls" are unconstitutional as they conflict with home-rule doctrine. "While the state statute does not specifically permit ownership of more than one dog 'commonly known as a pit bull,' it does not specifically prohibit it either," the judge wrote.
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He added that the challenges in this case are different than those in the Tellings case in which the Ohio Supreme Court in 2007 upheld the city and state laws singling out "pit bulls" as inherently vicious. Judge Goulding also wrote that a provision of the city law lumping "pit bull mixed breed" dogs with "pit bulls" is unconstitutional. That judgment could have wide implications in the county, as the dog warden's office refuses to adopt out adult "pit bull" mixes as well as "pit bulls." Those dogs are then killed by lethal injection. Mr. Smith's attorneys, husband-wife duo Daniel and Kristi Haude of Cleveland, took the case pro bono and did not challenge the other three charges against Mr. Smith for failing to immunize against rabies.
Mrs. Haude praised Judge Goulding's decision for striking down a law that "leaves the door open for dog wardens to arbitrarily classify any dog as a 'pit bull.'" "The problem with [the law] is that innocent dog owners are faced with criminal charges, and their dogs are taken away before they have a chance to prove their dogs are not vicious or are not 'pit bulls,'" said Mrs. Haude, a co-founder with Lucas County resident Jean Keating of the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates.
Adam Loukx, acting law director for the city, said yesterday that city prosecutors have yet to decide whether to appeal Judge Goulding's decision. "As is always the case when a judge strikes down an ordinance or part of the code, we're disappointed," Mr. Loukx said. "We'll be reviewing his reasoning very closely to see if it was justified." "Pit bull" is a generic descriptive term for a dog trained to fight and can refer to multiple breeds, including the American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, and other mixed breeds determined to be "pit bulls" by Lucas County's dog warden. More than 55 percent of the 1,951 dogs euthanized last year at the pound were called "pit bulls" or "pit bull" mixes. The city of Toledo has a contract with the county dog warden to enforce its local laws. The contract was for up to $146,882 last year. Three Toledo City councilmen recently announced an effort to establish a committee that would examine the city's laws and policies related to dogs.
Councilman Joe McNamara, who first proposed the re-examination, said yesterday that the judge's opinion "underscores the need for us to re-examine the city's policies concerning the regulation of dangerous dogs." "I do think Judge Goulding was correct when he wrote that 'a more uniform, practical, and humane method of regulating dogs, which both preserves the safety of the public and focuses on the dangers and misdeeds of irresponsible dog owners, would seem preferable to the status quo,'" Mr. McNamara said. Ms. Keating said the dog warden eventually released all three of Mr. Smith's dogs. Mr. Smith took one home and boarded the other two with a friend as he waited for the judge to decide his case. "What we formed this group to do is to help people like Hugh," Ms. Keating said yesterday. "Otherwise, those dogs would have been dead." Lucas County is accepting job applications for a new dog warden to replace the long-serving and controversial Tom Skeldon, set to formally leave office Jan. 31. Mr. Skeldon announced his early retirement late last year after weeks of mounting criticism that he euthanized too many dogs, among other complaints. On Tuesday, county commissioners voted to reverse a policy that previously prohibited unclaimed "pit bull" puppies from leaving the pound. Such puppies can now be transferred to the Toledo Area Humane Society for adoption.
Contact JC Reindl at 419-724-6065.