Pit bull ban lifted in Mansfield

MANSFIELD, Ohio-- A ban on pit bulls in the city of Mansfield has been repealed, after years of debate and controversy.

Critics of the ban, including the Richland County Humane Society, say the law was generally ignored, unless a pit bull attacked a person or killed another pet.

Humane officers say, in some cases, the ban attracted the wrong kind of owners to the breed. Humane Society Executive Director Missy Houghton told FOX 8, "It created a demand for pit bull type dogs by people attracted to a criminal element because these dogs were outlawed and so it seemed a little bit more enticing and those are the people that you wouldn't necessarily want owning the dog anyway, because they're not going to be the best dog owners."

On Tuesday night, Mansfield City Council voted to end the pit bull ban, in part because of a ruling earlier this year by the Fifth District Courts of Appeals, that found that breed specific legislation enacted in another Ohio city, Reynoldsburg, was unconstitutional.

According to Mansfield Law Director John Spon, "A city is prohibited from banning pit bull types because the ban would be in conflict with the statewide non breed specific legislation for the State of Ohio.”

Now that the pit bull ban has been lifted, council members are considering new legislation that would hold owners accountable for the behavior and actions of their dogs. Under the proposed new law, owners who recklessly allow their dogs to get loose and attack someone, could be charged with a first degree misdemeanor.

They could also be forced to make restitution at twice the amount of the medical bills or other expenses incurred by the victim. "So if you own a dog that is dangerous or aggressive, you need to be extra responsible with your dog and they need to enforce the legislation so that they're fined heavily and they're held accountable for the actions of their animals; that's the only to keep our community safe," said Missy Houghton.

As part of the proposed legislation, the city would hire an animal control officer to enforce the law. But city officials say they may not have the funds to fill that position, and they acknowledge that the proposed law would have no impact if it is not enforced.