By now most of you know that the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s opinion that the City of Toledo, Ohio was justified in limiting the number of “pit bulls” in a household to one, and in requiring liability insurance for all “pit bull” owners, etc. But after reading the decision, I’m amazed at the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision.
The Ohio Supreme Court noted in their decision that they agreed with the trial court (i.e. lower court) and testimony from Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon that,
(1) when pit bulls attack, they are more likely to inflict severe damage to their victim than other breeds of dogs; (2) pit bulls have killed more Ohioans than any other breed of dog; (3) Toledo police officers fire their weapons in the line of duty at pit bulls more often than they fire weapons at people and all other breeds of dogs combined; (4) pit bulls are frequently shot during drug raids because pit bulls are encountered more frequently in drug raids than any other dog breed. The trial court also found that pit bulls are found largely in urban settings where there are crowded living conditions and a large number of children present, which increases the risk of injury caused by pit bulls.
First, any statistics or “evidence” based on the non-existent “breed” “pit bull” are erroneous and should never be admissible in any court. I’ll explain that later in this post.
Second, the myth that “pit bulls” do more damage when they bite or attack has been proven time and again to be false. For instance, no person has had to have a face transplant after being mauled by a “pit bull” but an unlucky lady in France did have to have her face replaced after being mauled by her own Labrador. In other words, all attacking dogs do a lot of damage simply because of the state they’re in.
Third, “pit bulls” have not killed more Ohioans than any other breed of dog because “pit bull” is not a breed of dog!
Fourth, Toledo police officers have not fired their weapons more times at “pit bulls” than other breeds of dog because again there is no breed “pit bull.” This should not have been admissible data since in no way are police officers skilled or trained in making breed determinations.
Fifth, it should not be admissible in court to say that police officers encounter “pit bulls” in drug raids more than any other “breed” because again, “pit bull” is not a breed, and police officers are not trained to make breed determinations.
Sixth, “pit bulls” do not present more of a danger to children than any other breed, and perhaps much less so. If the judges were talking about bully breeds, which it seems they might have been, at least in part, based on Judge O’Connor’s remarks — “…pit bulls have a better temperament than many other common breeds of dogs used as pets…” — then these actual breeds — American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers — score comparably with Golden Retrievers on their temperament tests and are inherently loving of children which is how they earned the name “the Nanny Dog” in the early 20th century.
As for the term “pit bull,” it is well known by now that there is no breed “pit bull” and the slang designation “pit bull” is not a breed that can be found under any kennel club’s — like the AKC or the UKC — list of breeds. It is very alarming that the Ohio Supreme Court clearly did not understand that “pit bull” is not a breed as they referred to “pit bulls” in the decision 58 times as an actual breed while only naming an actual breed — the American Pit Bull Terrier — once. As we always say, housed beneath the slang term “pit bull” are at least 20 actual breeds of dog and their mixes. As such, statistics which incorporate the slang term “pit bull” are automatically and fatally flawed.
Also, the slang term “pit bull” has been found time and time again to be unconstitutionally vague or “void for vagueness,” but the Ohio Supreme Court noted that,
“This court has previously held that the term pit bull is not unconstitutionally void for vagueness. In State v. Anderson, we stated: In sum, we believe that the physical and behavioral traits of pit bulls together with the commonly available knowledge of dog breeds typically acquired by potential dog owners or otherwise possessed by veterinarians or breeders are sufficient to inform a dog owner as to whether he owns a dog commonly known as a pit bull dog. 57 Ohio St.3d. 168, 173, 566 N.E.2d. 1224.
How can this have been legally upheld?? If no kennel club has a listing for “pit bull” then how can the court of all institutions claim that “pit bull” is a breed simply because breeders and veterinarians use the slang term or based on physical and behavioral traits??? Is this not the most flimsy of “evidence”? I hate to say it, but after having read the decision and having seen no actual legally permissible reason for outlawing “pit bulls,” not the least of which is that there is no such breed and people in Toledo won’t know whether they own a “pit bull” or not based on the court’s and Toledo’s language, I must conclude that the Ohio Supreme Court appears in this instance to have been a kangaroo court! What else could you conclude but that the Ohio Supreme Court is “a crudely or irregularly operated court” to the extent that “a fair trial is impossible”?
And once again the rational basis test trumps people’s 14th amendment rights to property, due process (substantive and procedural), and equal protection. The rational basis test is a standard, a very low standard, by which a state law can be upheld: A state law must be upheld if it (or the classification it contains) is rationally related to any legitimate interest of the state.” It is the lowest level of scrutiny and should not be applied in cases involving inalienable constitutional rights because what couldn’t be considered “rational” in the eyes of the state? When considering the rational basis test it should be assumed that “If a government action conflicts with another constitutional value, then judges may turn to a higher level of scrutiny.” As such, in cases where breed-specific ordinances are being legally challenged and issues of property, due process, and equal protection are being weighed (or any other issues which involve inalienable constitutional rights) the vitalness of preserving constitutional rights alone should merit a higher level of scrutiny.
Add to the low level of scrutiny of the rational basis test judges who are operating on a set of erroneous statistics and other false data, and you have a recipe for the negation of inalienable constitutional rights. “Inalienable” means “not able to repudiate,” i.e. negate! Perhaps you’re tempted to think “Oh this just affects “pit bull” owners. My dog is safe.” You’re wrong! If the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision is upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court, that ruling will not only affect all “pit bull” owners but all pet owners and potentially anyone who owns property. Why? Because if the Ohio Supreme Court can quote from Section 19, Article I of the Ohio Constitution that “Private property shall ever be held inviolate, but subservient to the public welfare,” and yet go on to negate that inviolate right to private property on the false “rational” basis that “pit bulls” are a danger to the public though the court did not show any evidence of how they arrived at that conclusion, then our constitutional rights are in great jeopardy indeed!