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Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the City of Toledo's breed-specific ordinances are constitutional. The ordinances classify dogs that belong to a breed commonly known as pit bulls, or dogs that are pit bull mixes, as vicious. The court's decision effectively overturns a 2006 Ohio Appellate Court decision that found that breed-specific ordinances are unconstitutional.

The case, Toledo v. Tellings, involves Paul Tellings, a resident of the City of Toledo and owner of three dogs identified as “pit bulls.” Mr. Tellings was charged with violating three city ordinances that severely limit the ownership of such dogs to one per household. In response, Mr. Tellings challenged the constitutionality of the ordinances, but the trial court found that even though pit bulls are not more dangerous than other breeds, there was sufficient evidence to support the city's claim that pit bulls present dangers in an urban setting. The appellate court later overturned the trial court's decision, holding that the three ordinances violated the rights to procedural due process, substantive due process, and equal protection, as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Section 16, Article I of the Ohio Constitution. Upon review, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Appellate Court by finding that the State of Ohio and the City of Toledo both have a legitimate interest in protecting citizens from the dangers associated with pit bulls, and that the Toledo ordinances are rationally related to that interest and are therefore constitutional.

Justice Maureen O'Connor concurred in the court's rationale, but separately noted her disapproval of the Toledo ordinance that identifies pit bulls as vicious animals per se. “Dangerous animal behavior is the function of inherently dangerous dog owners, not inherently dangerous dogs.”

The American Kennel Club agrees with Justice O'Connor. The AKC supports reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to govern the ownership of dogs. The AKC believes that dog owners should be responsible for their dogs. We support laws that: establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as “dangerous” based on stated, measurable actions; impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners; and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs proved to be dangerous. We strongly oppose any legislation that determines a dog to be “dangerous” based on specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs.

“We are disappointed with the Ohio Supreme Court's majority decision,” said Dennis Sprung, AKC's President and CEO. “However, the American Kennel Club will continue to educate the general public about the importance of responsible dog ownership while working with legislators at every level to ensure that reasonable, behavior-based dangerous dog legislation is passed and enforced.”

Walt Bebout, Director of the Canine Legislation Department, will be presenting a Legislative Empowerment Seminar, this Saturday, August 4, 2007, at the Steel Valley Cluster of Dog Shows, on Route 46, at the Canfield, Ohio Fairgrounds (time and location of the seminar will be posted at the Fairgrounds). Everyone is invited to attend. Additionally, the Canine Legislation Department will continue to monitor developments with Toledo v. Tellings. For more information, call the Canine Legislation Department at (919) 816-3720, or e-mail

BSL Case Overturned in OH

[Wednesday, August 01, 2007]

The Ohio Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that Toledo's breed-specific ordinance is constitutional. Today's ruling is a reversal of a 2006 appellate court decision which found that the breed restrictions were unconstitutional. Mr. Tellings, the pit bull owner who filed the original case has vowed to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

The AKC Canine Legislation department will post a full analysis of the court’s ruling tomorrow. Please check back for updates.

Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the City of Toledo’s breed-specific ordinances are…