Willie Nelson has joined the Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) in opposing an Ohio law labeling all pit bulls in the state as “vicious dogs.”
According to the Toledo Blade, the singer and ambassador for BFAS, calls the law “archaic,” and wrote an email to a committee of the Ohio Senate asking the Senators to support a new bill that would change the current law. It has already been passed in the House as House Bill 14 with a vote of 69-29. Nelson wrote, “Ohio is the only state that discriminates against dogs who share a cluster of physical characteristics by classifying this group as ‘vicious’ without any regard to individual dog behavior…These dogs are considered ‘vicious’ at birth, even though there are countless dogs of unknown heritage who are deemed ‘pit bulls’ who are wonderful family pets. In addition to being beloved pets, many ‘pit bulls’ are show dogs, search and rescue dogs, and service dogs. The current law infringes on responsible dog owners’ rights to own any dog they choose, no matter what the dog’s appearance. Dogs, like people, are individuals and should each be judged on his/her own merits.”
The current law labels any dog that has killed or seriously injured a person or another dog without provocation as vicious, along with any dog of the “general breed known as ‘pit bull.'” The new law would redefine the terms. The name of “vicious dog” would be given only to dogs that have seriously injured or killed a person, while “dangerous dogs” would apply to those that have seriously injured or killed another dog or have been labeled a “nuisance dog” three times. The law would no longer label all pit bull breeds, and would be applied only to individual dogs. Owners of “vicious” and “dangerous” dogs would be required to obtain liability insurance, signage at their home, a microchip and more. “Nuisance dogs” – those that have “menacingly chased, approached, or attempted to bite a person” – would receive a record kept by the dog warden.
Representative Barbara Sears, who sponsored the new bill, says “Recently, Toledo, the largest city in [Lucas County], had an extremely restrictive dog ordinance that is focused on pit bulls. Toledo also has the highest dog license fees in the state and spent a large amount each year euthanizing innocent dogs that resemble pit bulls.” The law has also sparked a petition on Change.org started by Jean Keating, president of the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates. Keating’s petition letter support H.B. 14 and calls for “breed-neutral laws that target reckless owners instead of innocent dogs.”