You’ve probably heard of breed specific legislation (BSL) before. BSL is a term used for laws that ban certain dog breeds or place restrictions on owners who choose to adopt those breeds. Most states have breed specific laws and many cities and towns do as well. Now, one Ohio city is trying to take BSL to a whole new level by enacting a ‘pre-bite’ dog ordinance.
I’m not going to say that I agree or disagree with breed specific regulations, but a pre-bite ordinance? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. One councilman on the Avon Lake City Council has referred to the measure as “the most comprehensive and thorough animal-dog legislation in the state of Ohio.” After months of debate, the council approved the legislation this week.
The discussion began after two canine attacks that left two small dogs dead and an 81-year-old dog owner injured. Much research has been done and the council has now passed two pieces of legislation that are intended to prevent dog attacks and deal with dogs that have been deemed dangerous in the event that an attack takes place.
One of the ordinances has become known as ‘pre-bite’ legislation, and it will give officers on the Avon Lake police force the authority to define potentially aggressive dogs before an attack or dog bite takes place. Councilman Dave Kos explained the new legislation in layman’s terms:
“A resident who feels a dog is a potential threat or is showing aggressive behavior can contact police, who will dispatch an animal control officer to the scene.”
In order to make things fair for dog owners as well as those registering complaints, anyone who files a complaint is required to formally document it and sign it. Kos says the council did not want to accept anonymous complaints because that can be a slippery slope and there are sure to be more false complaints given if someone can leave one anonymously.
He says that anyone documenting a complaint must agree to appear in a hearing if that ends up being required. Kos says that the council did the best they could to provide guidelines that would make the complaints as true and accurate as possible. Animal control officers will be able to consider prior incidents, how the dog is raised and any photographs or videos that show aggressive behavior to help them in determining whether the dog is a nuisance.
On the other hand, officers can also decide that the dog is of no threat. I actually think this is a good idea. It isn’t biased against any breed in particular. The measure simply allows any concerned citizen to report a dog that they believe is dangerous. Isn’t that what we do with people that we believe to be dangerous?
The second piece of this legislation will place strict requirements on owners of dogs that have previously attacked a person or another animal. These requirements include:
- A non-retractable leash for the dog
- A yellow neon vest and collar that must be worn whenever the dog leaves his owners’ property
- The dog must be placed inside a secured, self-latching fence that is at least 6 feet high or a locked pen at all times
- Signs need to be posted to inform anyone entering the property
These regulations also give police the authority to remove a dog from his owner’s care pending its release by order of Municipal Court. Kos says that in an effort to be as fair to the pet owner as possible the new law also has provisions that will remove the “nuisance” designation if the owners comply with provisions of the ordinance, which would require a certain period of time to pass without any recurring incidents and the passing of an obedience class.
I like the fact that this ordinance offers incentives to owners that are willing to take corrective action. Dogs can attack at any time for any reason, and it isn’t always because they are genetically prone to being aggressive. Accidents do happen and because dogs are very unpredictable, the chances of an accident happening with a canine are more common. Giving dog owners the chance to correct any issues without losing their pet is a great alternative.