Portsmouth, OH: BSL passed

Portsmouth, OH, has passed BSL for “pit bull” owners.

From a purely technical standpoint, the law is poorly written. As in, the city did not have either a lawyer or an English major look it over.

“Pit bull” is confusingly defined as Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier, AND mixed breeds known as pit bulls, AND any dog that looks like a Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, AND any other breed that might be considered a pit bull, AND any combination of the aforementioned.

Portsmouth Passes Vicious Dogs Ordinance

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (WSAZ) – […] Pit bulls are no longer considered inherently vicious in the state of Ohio, but the new ordinance says all pit bulls have to be confined as though they were vicious. […]

Full article retrieved 5/15/12 from http://www.wsaz.com/home/headlines/Portsmouth_Passes_Vicious_Dogs_Ordinance_151482235.html

Portsmouth’s vicious dog ordinance is below. I have boldfaced the sections that are relevant to “pit bull” owners. I have also left commentary regarding the poor technical quality of the ordinance. Folks, if you ever have the chance to write your own ordinance, get help from an experienced attorney and make sure you have the ordinance copyedited before it becomes a permanent embarrassment to your city.


(a) For the purpose of this ordinance, “vicious dog” is defined as:

1) Any dog [ED: “which”] when unprovoked engages in any behavior that requires a defensive action by any person to prevent bodily injury when the dog is off the property of the owner or keeper of the dog.
2) Any dog which, when unprovoked, bites a person [ED: comma] causing severe injury. Severe injury shall be defined as any physical harm to a human being that results in muscle tears or disfiguring lacerations or requires multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.
3) Any dog which, when unprovoked has killed, seriously bitten, inflicted injury, or otherwise caused injury when attacking a domestic animal off of the property of the owner or keeper of the dog.

(b) A “vicious dog” does not include either [ED: “Either” refers to TWO options. Below there are THREE options.] of the following:

1) A police dog that has killed or caused serious injury to any person while the police dog is being used to assist one or more law enforcement officers in the performance of their official duties.
2) A dog that has killed or caused serious injury to any person while the person was committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner, keeper, or harbor of the dog.
3) A dog that bites or attacks a person or animal that provokes, torments, tortures, or treats an animal cruelly.

[ED: Section (e) should go HERE, with all the other definitions, followed by Section c(4), which makes clear that the following section (c) applies to “pit bulls.”]

(c) Standards for keeping vicious dogs. The keeping of vicious dogs shall be subject to the following standards.

1) CONFINEMENT. When vicious dogs are not under the physical control of their owner, all vicious dogs shall be securely confined indoors, in a securely enclosed and locked pen or kennel, or in a fenced in yard with a locked gate. Such fenced in yard must be equipped with a six (6) foot high fence, or that of adequate height determined by the Portsmouth City Animal Control Officer. The fence must be equipped with a locked gate. If said fence is not sufficient in height or strength to keep vicious dogs from running at large, the vicious dog must be kept in a pen or kennel that meets the following standards:

(a) The pen or kennel must have secure sides and a secure top attached to its sides.
(b) Such structure must have a secure bottom of floor [ED: what is a “bottom of floor”? Perhaps “of” should be “or”?] attached to the sides of the pen, or the sides of the pen must be embedded in the ground to a depth of no less than two (2) feet.
(c) The fencing for such structure must be at least 14 gauge fencing wire.
(d) All structures used to confine such animals must be locked with a key or combination lock when such animals are within the structure.
(e) No structure may violate any Codified Ordinances of the City of Portsmouth, Ohio.

2) CONFINEMENT INDOORS. No vicious dog may be kept on a porch, patio, or in any part of a house or structure that would allow the dog to exit such building on its own volition [ED: Fancy word, incorrect usage. “of its own volition”]. In addition, no such dog may be kept in a house or structure where window screens or screen doors are the only obstacles preventing the dog from exiting the structure.

3) CONTROL OF VICIOUS DOG. No person shall permit a vicious dog to go outside of its kennel, pen, or the owner’s residence unless such dog is securely leashed with a leash not longer than four (4) feet in length. No person shall permit such a dog to be kept on a chain, rope, or other type of leash outside its kennel or pen unless a person is in [ED: “unless a person is in” what?] and able to maintain physical control of the animal at all times. Such dogs may not be leashed to inanimate objects such as trees, posts, buildings, etc.

4) While not being classified as vicious, due to the disproportionate number of documented “pit bulls” running at large complaints and documented attacks on domestic animals and people, ALL dogs that meet the definition of “pit bulls”, as stated in section (e) of this ordinance, must be confined as stated in section (c) of this ordinance. [ED: Requiring readers to skip around to figure out what applies = poor form. Only NOW do we find out that “pit bull” owners are subject to Section (c). This section (4) and Section (e) should be established at the very beginning. We’re not even going to go into the not-so-subtle implications being made in this paragraph.]


1) Insurance. All owners, keepers or harborers of vicious dogs must within ten (10) days of the effective date of this ordinance, obtain liability or home owner’s insurance that provides coverage for each occurrence because of damage or bodily injury to or death of a person caused by the dog. The liability or homeowner’s insurance policy must be a minimum of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000).

(a) The owner, keeper or harborer of a “Pit Bull Dog”, as defined in section (e) of this ordinance is exempted from the insurance requirements for vicious dogs unless the “pit bull dog” has been documented to have previously bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal. [ED: This is a totally unnecessary clause. A properly written law does not need to make an exemption when a section doesn’t apply in the first place.]

2) Any owner of a vicious dog if so ordered by a court, any law enforcement officer, animal control officer, or public health official must provide proof of the required liability insurance.

(e) DEFINITION. ” Pit Bull Dog” is defined for purposes of this Section to mean the Bull Terrier breed of dog, the American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog, dogs of mixed breed or other breeds which breed or mixed breed is known as Pit Bulls, PitBull Dogs or Pit Bull Terriers, and any dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominantly of the breeds of Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and other breed commonly known as Pit Bulls, Pit Bull dogs, or Pit Bull Terriers, or a combination of any of these breeds. The Portsmouth City Animal Control Officer shall make the final determination of whether the dog meets the definition of a “pit bull dog”. [ED: This  ordinance wins the award for the most convoluted and confusing definition of “pit bull” I’ve ever seen. Also, this is a definition and should go in the beginning with the other definitions.]

(f) ENFORCEMENT. It shall be the duty of the Portsmouth City Animal Control Officer to enforce this ordinance. The Portsmouth City Police Department also has the authority to enforce this ordinance.

1) The Portsmouth City Animal Control Officer shall investigate all vicious dog complaints. All complaints shall be put in writing and reviewed by the Portsmouth City Animal Control Officer and the officer shall determine if the dog is vicious or not.
2) The Portsmouth City Animal Control Officer shall require the owner or harborer of the vicious dog to comply with the provisions of this ordinance or safely remove such dog from the city limits of Portsmouth, Ohio.

(g) FAILURE TO COMPLY. If the owner, keeper or harborer of a vicious dog fails to comply with the requirements and conditions set forth in this Section and this entire Ordinance, the Portsmouth City Animal Control Officer may order the vicious dog to be immediately seized, impounded or destroyed.

[ED: Missing Section (h).]

(i) The first violation of this ordinance will result in the charge of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree.

1) A second violation of this ordinance will result in the charge of a misdemeanor of the third degree.
2) A third violation of this ordinance will result in the charge of a misdemeanor of the second degree.
3) The fourth violation of this ordinance will result in a charge of a misdemeanor of the first degree.
4) Each subsequent violation will result in the charge of a misdemeanor of the first degree.

a) Each occurrence shall constitute a separate offense.

All alerts for Portsmouth: https://stopbsl.org/?s=portsmouth


2 responses to “Portsmouth, OH: BSL passed

  1. jeremy barr

    is this not the most ignorant ordiance you have ever heard!!? This is just plan fear mongering!! I live in Ohio and would like if you could provide some phone numbers to these offices!! I dont like sending emails, but will! I prefer to call! But i have provided my email […] plz send me any and all contact info you have so i can forward on this info and poorly mannered written ordiances!!! Thank you for the post!!!