What is HELP FIDO?

Humane Education Leads to Progress
For Informed Dog Owners

Vision Statement: We envision a society free from discrimination, where responsibility, education, love and compassion allow humans to fully respect and understand man's best friend.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

End Discrimination! Ohio House Bill 79

Happy Spring to all. Sorry for the lack of posts; our "work" lives have been crazy busy and we have not been able to update this blog as much as we would all like but we've been working diligently behind the scenes on a number of activities.

One very important news item for ALL dog owners in Ohio is the progress of Ohio House Bill 79. We previously posted about the details of this bill, which have not changed. It's relatively simple: would amend § 955.11 of the Ohio Revised Code to remove “pit bulls” from the definition of “vicious dog”.

HELP FIDO was present last Wednesday when HB 79 went before the Ohio House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, over a year after it was initially introduced by Rep. Barbara Sears. There were many supporters in attendance, some even occupying the adjacent “overflow room”. Roughly 10 people spoke, with only a couple expressing opposition to HB 79. Among the supporters were Jean Keating, co-founder of Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, Shana Klein, founder of Cleveland-based bully rescue For the Love of Pits, and Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop.

There was a wide range of topics discussed by the speakers who support the bill, ranging from the cost for a community to enforce breed specific legislation, to the fact that it punishes law abiding citizens and good dogs and may even be considered unconstitutional. Commissioner Konop, who attempted to have former dog warden Tom Skeldon removed from his position before Skeldon retired in November, stressed that no breed is inherently vicious, just as babies aren’t born evil. He spoke about the Toledo pound’s recent moratorium on killing pit bulls since Tom Skeldon is no longer the dog warden. Skeldon actually spoke briefly, but didn’t have much to say, other than giving his opinion that passing the bill would be a mistake. “The job of dog warden is to protect the public from dogs,” he said. Well, Skeldon, as we’ve said before, you’re missing the other half of the job description, and that’s why you’re no longer the dog warden. The committee members didn’t bother to ask any questions after his speech.

Some testimonies focused on the definition (or lack thereof) of the term “pit bull” and how this presents such a huge problem in identifying dogs where the law is concerned. There was a lot of talk about media sensationalism and how statistics condemning pit bulls are often skewed and inaccurate depending on the source. In regards to these statistics, it was importantly noted that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has not collected dog bite data based on breed in 12 years. They've stopped doing it. Speakers asserted that breed specific legislation, like that of Ohio Revised Code Section 955.11 and 955.22, creates a false sense of security and ignores the root of the problem, endangering the public more. Supporters stated that instead of breed discriminatory legislation, communities should crack down on irresponsible owners and those involved in criminal activity, enforce existing leash/containment laws, focus on educating the public, including children on bite prevention, and promote responsible ownership through lower-cost training and handling classes, as well as spay/neuter programs.

Speakers for the bill effectively presented rebuttals for the opposition in regards to multiple topics. While the speakers supporting HB 79 were extremely well-prepared, offering handouts and informational packets and promising follow-up data for any of the committee members who requested additional information, the speaker from an environmental division within the Franklin County Court could not give any additional information when he was asked by the committee to back up the statistics he presented about the danger of pit bulls. After a speech in opposition to the bill, one committee member commented “These dogs are just nasty, and I don’t see why anyone would want to have one.“ GASP!! HISS!! Well, on the subject of these "nasty" dogs' temperament, findings of the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) were cited: the average score of the four breeds most often referred to or classified as a “pit bull” type dog, and who are defined as such in the Ohio Revised Code, is an 85.7%, higher than the Golden Retriever. The American Pit Bull Terrier alone received a score of 85.3. Other individual scores can be viewed here at the ATTS website. The reality of dog attacks was also discussed. Supporting speakers noted that often times attacks are the result of environmental factors, such as (abuse, neglect, starvation, and confinement) that would cause ANY animal, not a specific breed or type of dog, to attack, reinforcing Commissioner Konop’s “nature vs. nurture” statement. Other factors that contribute to bites include unaltered dogs and lack of socialization, which are also completely preventable issues.

Several speakers indicated that nearly all the credible animal welfare, veterinary medical, and human health organizations OPPOSE breed specific legislation, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Canine Foundation, the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA), the American Dog Owners Association (ADOA), the National Animal Control Association (NACA), the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), and the American Kennel Club (AKC), among others; one speaker even pointed out that Ohio BSL actually asks local Animal Control Officers to go AGAINST the opinion of their own national organization.

Shana Klein, founder of Cleveland’s For the Love of Pits bully rescue gave testimony, as did her mother, who delivered a heartfelt speech in favor of pit bulls and HB 79. The Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocate’s Jean Keating had an especially thorough and well-delivered testimonial that included many of the aforementioned points, garnering a healthy round of applause from all the supporters in attendance. Toward the end of the hearing, after all scheduled witnesses had spoken, anyone who wanted to say something was given the floor. HELP FIDO’s Lisa had an opportunity to make a point about the insurance coverage that is required for pit bull owners in Ohio, and how many companies discriminate against homeowners based on Ohio’s current law.

We strongly support this bill as the scientific evidence from places such as the
National Canine Research Council and detailed in numerous outlets such as KC Dog Blog and Stop BSL have shown, indisputably, that Breed Specific Legislation does not work! It is impossible to enforce as there is no accurate indicator of breed (aside from early DNA testing), extremely expensive to enforce and most important of all - does NOT make our communities safer. To read more, please click on the BSL link at the bottom right of this blog. What does work is judging each dog individually, based upon its behavior and actions.

As of right now there is no committee vote scheduled for the bill, so we’ll have to keep our ears open and our fingers and toes crossed in the meantime! Want to help HB 79? Visit the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates website.

Huge thanks for Lacy Marshall for contributing the majority of this post.


Lindsey Marshall said...

love love love! good job sissy...and brian :)

Shana Klein said...

Hi Brian: In this post, you state that my mother spoke at the HB 79 hearing. My mother did not testify at this hearing. Thanks, Shana Klein

These are the dogs of HELP FIDO...our dogs...this is why we are here...