A councilman in Cincinnati, Ohio says pit bull owners should be required to register their dogs as part of his proposed public policy to address vicious dogs in the city. Christopher Smitherman, chairman of the city council’s Law and Public Safety Committee, submitted his proposed legislation on Friday to do just that.
The proposal would create an Animal Task Force and require registration of all pit bulls, evidence that owners have obtained liability insurance; and evidence that the dog has a microchip. Owners found not following these guidelines would be charged with a civil offense and financial penalties.
Smitherman said he hopes the Cincinnati council will have a hearing on his proposal in September. Any changes must be voted on by the council before they could go into effect.
The proposal comes two years after Ohio moved away from breed-specific vicious dog labels. Current state law defines a dangerous dog based on behavior, not breed. While two state legislators have said the law isn’t tough enough, they are seeking solutions to strengthen the state law without targeting any specific breed of dog. They have held discussions on topics such as harsher penalties; how to target problem dog owners; and whether to set standards for posted warnings about dangerous dogs.
Councilman Smitherman says his proposal targets irresponsible owners of vicious dogs and holds those owners responsible for any injury caused by a ‘vicious’ dog. We, of course, have no issue with making the law stronger and targeting problem dog owners, but irresponsible owners are not limited to one breed of dog, and reinstating restrictions on pit bulls will not resolve the city’s problems. However, public education and strict enforcement of a strong breed-neutral law have been proven to work time and time again.
The failure to address the actions of all irresponsible dog owners, as opposed to sweeping everyone who owns a certain breed into one category (the good, as well as the bad), will only result in problem owners gravitating to other breeds where they will continue to be just as irresponsible, while penalizing those who have done absolutely nothing other than be responsible dog owners.
Cincinnati residents, please reach out to your city officials NOW and let them know you support making the law stronger by holding each and every owner accountable for the actions of their dogs, but targeting specific breeds is a flawed theory that the city has already experienced first-hand. Any solution should come in the form of a breed-neutral law that is strictly enforced and backed up with public education programs in order to make a real and lasting impact on the entire community.