Lakewood City Council passes pit bull law which ends controversial ban

LAKEWOOD, Ohio -- After 10 years, pit bulls are no longer banned or automatically labeled as "vicious" in the city of Lakewood.

Council members voted Monday night on multiple significant changes to the city’s Dangerous and Vicious Animals law, Chapter 506 of the Codified Ordinances of the City of Lakewood.

In the law, "pit bull dogs or canary dogs" were deemed dangerous, but now the entire definition has been rewritten and is no longer breed specific.  All dogs will now be on equal footing unless or until they behave aggressively.

The law defines a “dangerous dog” as a vicious dog that has harmed or killed a person, or killed another dog without provocation.

A “nuisance dog” is defined as any dog that chases someone “without provocation” and behaves in a menacing fashion.

If a dog does something that could be described as “dangerous or menacing” and it is reported to police, the owner would be notified in the mail.

If the owner disagrees that their dog is dangerous they could request a hearing. But if it is confirmed the dog is dangerous, the owners would have to do the following:

  • Secure the dog indoors or in a locked pen with a secured top
  • Secure the dog a locked fenced yard, with a fence that is at least 6 ft. tall
  • While off the premises, keep the dog restrained on a non-retractable tether and with a muzzle.
  • Identify the dog with a leash, collar, harness, vest or other garment that is colored neon yellow to increase visibility and make the dog identifiable to an ordinary person from 15 feet away.
  • Post signs on the premises
  • Micro chip the dog and register a picture of the dog with police
  • Spay and neuter the dog
  • Obtain insurance a dangerous dog registration and maintain a liability insurance policy not less than $100,000.

A dog that is deemed a “nuisance dog” would also face some of the above restrictions, but they would have the opportunity to have their dog “declassified” after one years time.

The changes are considered a victory for pit bull owners who have been protesting the ban since it was first implemented 10 years ago.

Jennifer Scott, who fought to keep her adopted pit bull-mix named Charlie said, “I’m very grateful to my community, the love and support has been overwhelming.”

Scott said, “It’s huge. I think now all dog owners are gonna be held accountable instead of how your dog looks.”

All dog owners must maintain $10,000 in liability insurance.  Several people in crowd voiced there concerns over the mandatory extra coverage including Cleveland Animal Protective League CEO Sharon Harvey who said, “Not having it is not going to make someone an irresponsible pet owner.  There are plenty of people who own dogs who just don’t have the disposable income to afford an insurance policy.”

But overall Harvey and about 75 others who attended the meeting called the new law a success and said it will benefit both humans and their canine companions.

The ordinance also expands animal cruelty guidelines.

Proper shelters must be large enough for the animal, completely enclosed, clean, dry, and properly insulated from the elements.

The time a dog is tethered outside has also been limited to six hours within a 24-hour period and never when there is a heat or cold weather advisory.

“By expanding your focus on enforcement laws you are creating a safer, more humane Lakewood,” said Harvey.

**Continued coverage, here**