Oakwood, OH: Vicious dog ordinance is a compromise

Oakwood, OH has passed a new vicious dog ordinance that is breed-specific… sort of.

Oakwood initially did not have a vicious dog ordinance, and presumably applied and enforced state law with regards to vicious dogs. Ohio state law labels all “pit bull”-type dogs to be “vicious,” and restricts ownership accordingly.

Oakwood recently decided to institute their own vicious dog law. An early draft of the ordinance referred specifically to American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Bull Terriers as vicious breeds. This early draft was more detailed than state law, which defines “pit bull” as “any breed commonly known as a pit bull.” The concern with this draft (aside from the obvious, that it was breed-specific) was that if Ohio’s breed-specific state law is repealed via House Bill 14 or similar bill, Oakwood’s ordinance stands on its own and would still contain breed-specific language.

Subsequent revision of the proposal removed the specific reference to “pit bulls.” In its place, however, Oakwood’s new ordinance now refers to Ohio state code definition of a vicious dog. Specifically, it reads that a vicious dog “Is of a breed designated as a vicious dog under Ohio Revised Code Section 955.11 or 955.22, as the same may be amended from time to time.”

By including a reference to state law, rather than specifically naming breeds, Oakwood is now relying on state law to define vicious breeds. If the state law is repealed and replaced with something that is not breed-specific, Oakwood’s ordinance will reflect the repeal.

Oakwood’s new ordinance is a compromise. They must follow state law, which is breed-specific with regards to vicious dogs. They could have gone further, and passed an ordinance that named specific breeds; their ordinance would have remained intact even if the state law had changed. Instead, they chose a middle ground, and their ordinance refers to state law; if state law changes, their ordinance will, too.

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