Lakewood City Council Revisits Pit Bull Legislation

Measure before council aims to clarify language in 2008 ordinance.

Pit bulls are illegal in Lakewood, along with other dogs that are deemed dangerous.

That legislation passed  nearly two years ago after some heated debate and a divided city. 

On Monday, council brought up the issue again — but this time to clarify the language in the ordinance.

Specifically, the legislation before council seeks to outline the appeals process and the obligations of the city — as well as the rights and obligations of dog owners.

The ban, passed in 2008, required residents at that time who owned pit pulls and canary dogs to register the animals, carry special insurance and implant a microchip in the dogs.

The ordinance also ruled that no new pit bulls could live in the city. 

“This is a house-cleaning issue,” said Kevin Butler, the city’s law director, of the proposed ordinance before council. “The intention is to firm up the due process procedure on the hearings for dangerous dogs."

Here’s how the law works: Once the city learns that a dog may be a pit bull — or a canary dog — the animal control officer responds and takes photos of the dog in question for further examination. If the division of animal control determines the dog is a pit bull, the owner has 40 days to get rid of the dog.

The dog owner can file an appeal, but must prove — by way of a blood-drawn DNA test — that the animal is less than 50 percent of the breed in question.

“The existing ordinance does all that, it’s just less clear,” Butler said. “We wanted to make sure everyone is 100 percent clear on the process.”

Butler said there have been only a “small number” of pit bulls reported and removed from the city since 2008.

Recently, two families filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of the city’s ban. According to LoveLakewood.com, the suit claims a pre-existing set of state laws governing vicious dogs supersedes and voids the city’s laws.

More from LoveLakewood:

The suit accuses the city of using arbitrary methods to identify dangerous dogs and of having an unfair appeals process.

Plaintiffs Kevin and Nicole Tarquinio are seeking compensation for the emotional injury and financial losses they claim to have suffered as a result of the city’s actions. Kevin Tarquinio also claims to have experienced “a great deal of undue emotional stress which has resulted in physical injury.”

There is also another case represented by the same attorney. Both cases are pending.

“We don’t want to take people’s property without giving them due process,” Butler said. “I am not suggesting we haven’t done that in the past, but the law as it’s written is somewhat unclear.”

Butler, who was a city councilman at the time of the ordinance in 2008, said it was among the “most contentious series of meetings” during his time on council.

“My aim is not to rewrite the ban, it’s to actually ensure going forward that the process is fair.”

Butler acknowledged that the issue may generate some heated discussion, as it did in 2008.

“People are very passionate about animals,” he said. “It leads to a passionate debate.”

Council moved referred the legislation to the public safety committee for further discussion.

“The proposed legislation is to make the vicious dog ordinance more clear,” said council president Mary Louise Madigan, who voted against the ordinance in 2008. “We’ll take it apart, we’ll put it back together and see what council thinks.”

What Next June 21, 2011 at 03:34 PM
Not only is this blatant legalized discrimination, it is completely unrealistic! I have been stopped twice walking my PURE BRED English Bulldog, a neighbor has been stopped twice by the Lakewood PD walking his PURE BRED Yellow Lab, another neighbor has been stopped once and even refused entrance to the dog park walking her Bouvier de Flanders mix, and several people have been stopped, accused and made to leave Lakewood for walking their PROVEN Boxer mixes. What were we all accused of? Owning a banned breed. And now will have to pay for blood tests? Burden of proof should be set on the accuser, not the accused. These ridiculous, unconstitutional, bigoted laws do not only affect Pit Bull owners, they infringe on all residents rights. Wake up Lakewood!
Peter Grossetti June 21, 2011 at 04:11 PM
The Lakewood Animal Safety and Welfare Advisory Board's next open meeting in July 28 - 7:00pm at City Hall. You are invited to attend. The Lakewood Animal Safety and Welfare Advisory Board was established in 2008 to serve in an advisory capacity for the purpose of general animal issues, assist in public education and community outreach to owners of animal safety and abuse problems. The Board is also involved in updating and improving written educational materials and the coordination and referral of animal owners to education classes. The Lakewood Animal Safety and Welfare Advisory board is composed of seven members. Board members include a representative from the Lakewood City Council, the Director of Public Safety or a representative of that office, and five members who are representatives from the City of Lakewood with some area of expertise in animal behavior, animal safety or other experience that brings diversity to the membership of the board. The Lakewood Animal Safety and Welfare Advisory Board shall be advisory and coordinate its activities with the Administration and Council and any other boards or agencies. The Board is authorized to undertake any animal safety and welfare task requested by the Mayor and City Council.
Studly Dudley June 21, 2011 at 04:31 PM
I sure am glad that I don't live in Lakewood, OHIO. Just another city with politicians (and law enforcement officers) of questionable intelligence whose only agenda is to keep his or her seat in office.
Steve June 21, 2011 at 04:51 PM
My question...What experience do the dog wardens have deciding if it is a pit bull or not. How many years of experience? City of cleveland just rewrote there ord. removing pit bulls completely. So on west 117 they can live on the east side but not the west. The state of ohio is also going to change the legislation striking out pit bulls also, and putting the preassue on bad owners, not breeds. 2 federal lawsuits are going to cost this city much time and money, which we really dont have. We need to dubp this ord. and start going after bad owners, not specefic breeds..
Steve June 21, 2011 at 04:54 PM
For those that care the state's law change is HB-14, which should pass in a few weeks as it has no opposition.
Melissa June 23, 2011 at 02:34 AM
Maybe Lakewood should follow Clevelands new ordinance, which labels a vicious dog as a viscous dog, not just because the dog is a pit bull. Seems to make more sense. http://www.ilovedogs.com/2011/06/cleveland-stops-classifying-pit-bulls-as-vicious/#.TgKjQsNlBAw;facebook
meituk June 23, 2011 at 07:54 PM
Personally I do feel that a dog is only as good as it's owner. Now with that being said unfortunately some people shouldn't own a dog period. I don't know about any of you but have you cruised through or have you lived in Cleveland or Lorain and seen some of the people who own Pitbulls or any type of bully breed..... I don't want those people moving next door with a dog that is most likely smarter than the owner. Those people have ruined it for the responsible dog owners who actually cherish their pet as a member of the family and take it to proper obedience training, instead of encouraging it to be vicious. Sorry but I support the ordinance.
Steve June 23, 2011 at 08:26 PM
So meituk what you are saying is that these same bad people can move next door to you with a cache of guns, but not a dog. Have you walked thru lakewood lately and seen some of the very same seedy people living amongst us, just like cleveland and lorain. You cannot stop that. You make the laws tougher on the bad seeds, not on the breed. Sorry, but i'am against the ordinance.
meituk June 23, 2011 at 10:22 PM
Steve that is my point exactly, Lakewood has the seedy people heavily populating it already do we need more? NO! The same goes for guns too as for dogs....there are ALOT of people who shouldn't possess any sort of fire arm but they do and unfortunately ruin it for the folks who go through the correct protocols to own one. I grew up in Lkwd and have seen it change dramatically but lived in Cleveland and a few other places after college and until you see your dog being mauled and killed by a pit because the kid was "training" his dog for fighting then you may possibally see my side of the issue. I now have moved back and own my home and have a two year old my priorities are for the safety of my child and the integrity of the community. Not all pits or bully breeds are bad and I have friends who own them and they are stellar owners as are the dogs but I don't trust that everyone can follow their example. My heart goes out to those truely wonderful owners and their dogs that are being affected by this but it's true for alot of things in life, it takes one bad apple to ruin it for the rest. Opinion still unchanged.
Steve June 24, 2011 at 12:47 AM
So let me get this right. If one bad teacher molest one student, if one bad cop steps over the line, if one bad county auditor, judge, commisioner,mayor become the bad apple, are all the others guilty as well. Your logic is not sound. Would you tell your friend he cannot move into the house next to you with his dog? There is trust and there is law. All dogs can bite, therefore ban all dogs. I say go after the KID that was training his dog wrongly, not your friend who did it right.
meituk June 24, 2011 at 01:50 AM
Blah! Blah! BLAH! Opinion is still the same. My friends know my stance and respect my opinion. They wouldn't consider moving to Lkwd due to the ordinance which in my eyes is why I support it....TO KEEP THE IRRESPONSIBLE "THUGS" (such as the one who killed my dog) AND THEIR WRONGLY TRAINED DOGS OUT! As far as punishing the kid he had to get vicious dog insurance and whenever the dog was outside he had to have a muzzle on, the fence had to be 6 ' high with an enclosed top, that was it! REALLY! (insert swear word) I lost the best dog one could ever ask for and I highly doubt that any of that was actually taken into action by that kid nor enforced. Lakewoods just nipping it in the bud because believe me when I say the laws suck in protecting the victims who were subjected to a dog who has the bite force greater than any other dog around. That is the whole reason this ordinance is in effect because of the shear power that these dogs posses and in the wrong hands it'll be total carnage to anyone unlucky enough to encounter it. Just visualize an 85# Alaskan Malamute Spraying blood out of it's neck after this dog decided to let go because his jaws were locked down on my dogs neck for half an hour, which felt like a maddening eternity. Nothing could stop that dog from not just puncturing but CRUSHING my dogs neck. By the way my dog did not provoke the attack the kid let is dog right into our yard. So out of respect quit wasting my time with your retorts Steve.
Peter Grossetti June 24, 2011 at 02:44 AM
@ Steve and meituk -Hhope to see you at the The Lakewood Animal Safety and Welfare Advisory Board's next open meeting in July 28 - 7:00pm at City Hall. Sounds like you have strong opinions and this boards duty is to listen, research, debate and make recommendations to City Council and the Administrations regarding animal-related issues.
pitbullmom June 24, 2011 at 03:29 PM
@meituk I am a Lakewood resident and a registered, license, microchipped, insured, and responsible "pit bull" owner. My dog was deemed by the Lakewood animal warden to be a "pit bull" after seeing her for approximately one second up a set of stairs. He did not examine my dog. After a DNA test, two letters from vets, a letter from a AKC dog show judge and two letters from my attorney, they city still will not admit that they are wrong in deciding that my dog is a "pit bull". I am not a "thug", I am a paralegal at a prominent law firm. I am married and I am a mother. Instead of focusing your anger at irresponsible owners, why not encourage the city to keep the responsible ones they have instead of trying to force each and every one of us out? The owner of that dog should have been responsible for your dogs injuries and should have paid you for your loss. That owner should have been insured. My dog is insured up to $100,000 and that would have been paid out to you had a responsible owner's animal hurt your dog. So, in essence the dog is not to blame for this incidence, the irresponsible owner is! Also, I think you are misinformed about these dogs. It is physically impossible for a dog to have a locking jaw because that jaw would have to come unhinged and then re-hinged, which is anatomically not possible. Testing has also proven that these dogs cannot bite with any more pressure than any other dog. Please do your research first. And, I am sorry for your loss.
Kristi June 30, 2011 at 09:26 PM
meituk - it is so obvious that you are one of those people who spew inaccurate information but really have no idea what you're talking about. Stop incorrectly stating that the pit bulls jaws "locked down", huh? Are you aware that a doctor has performed an autopsy on the jaws of a pit bull and determined, conclusively, that there is no mechanism present that allows a pit bull to lock its jaws? While you're at it, stop incorrectly stating that pit bulls have the greatest bite force of any dog around, too. Did you know that another scientist performed bite strength testing on 3 breeds of dogs, including the pit bull, and the pit bull came in third? I suggest you get the real facts before spreading lies, inaccuracies, myths, and rumors. You are part of the problem. By the way, your friends may respect your opinions, so you say. I, however, am a pit bull owner, attorney who specializes in animal cases (especially pit bulls), and someone who has spoken with experts all over the country who have spend years researching and gathering statistics on pit bulls, and I do not respect your opinion! Finally, I am so sorry about what happened to your dog, but are you aware that Alaskan Malamutes have been known to attack and kill people, including toddlers? How would you feel if the city banned your dog? In fact, if things keep going the way they are, there is a very real chance of that happening. Maybe you'll change your tune then.
lori weiss July 07, 2011 at 04:02 AM
get rid of the damn dogs! the Tarquinios have a child less than a year old in the home, are those dogs more important than the safety of that young child or someone else's child who could be on the sidewalk/street when the mother's 2 teen-age boys are walking the dogs? Use some commone sense here please!
teri July 07, 2011 at 02:23 PM
well lori i live directly next door to the tarquinios for over 2 years now, funny i have been to there kids b day parties and have just hung out with them on a daily basis and have never met you.
teri July 07, 2011 at 02:33 PM
also lori you must really not know them. because it is emotional stress not only for them(the tarquinios) but the dogs too. um did you know he has a pacemaker difib. and is possibly waiting on a transplant. so yes it is emotional stress. ecspecialy when people run their mouths. you should really pay attention to yourself and your own problems. i have 2 children and a dog that i trust completley around their dogs they are anything but vicious. so lori i think you should mind your own buisness!!!!
Ty July 07, 2011 at 03:15 PM
if i read the suit, it looks like the kids were walking the dogs and were stopped after someone called the cops???..Now people are calling cops for people walking their dogs?.who said the dogs were pit bulls?? And does it really matter...its not the dogs people, its the owners,...Only thugs own pit bulls? that sounds a little ignorat...im not a lawyer but it sounds like to me these peoples main concern is that they want this law changed for other dogs owners..Im a dog owner and Im opposed to any law that disgriminates againt ANY breed of dog....
Kristi July 07, 2011 at 03:44 PM
meituk - Generally, I try not to get sewpt up in such things, but your comments are so ignorant, I feel compelled. First, you say that the "pit bulls" jaws locked down. Do you know than a doctor has performed an autopsy on the jaws of a pit bull and determined that there is no mechanism which would allow the jaws to lock? Second, you claim that the pit bull has greater bite strength than any other breed. Do you know that another doctor has performed bite strength testing on 3 breeds, including pit bulls, and the pit bull ranked 3rd? While I am sure your dog was friendly and did not deserve what happened, do you know that Alaskan Malamutes have been involved to attack, even kill, people? Third, you imply that breed discriminatory laws are necessary because other laws do not protect the victims. Do you know that you could have filed a civil suit against the owner of the other dog? If you didn't do so, the fact that you weren't compensated is your own fault. Finally, while your friends may respect your opinion (although I question the truth in that statement), I am someone who has been working in the legal arena and specializing in pit bull issues for a few years now. I have also spoken with many people considered experts in the field and I do not respect your opinion. Your opinion is nothing but myths, inaccuracies, lies, and/or half-truths. Please, please, please educate yourself before continuing to spew your rants. You are only part of the problem.
Ty July 07, 2011 at 06:06 PM
Ty July 07, 2011 at 06:09 PM
pit bull
michael July 07, 2011 at 07:32 PM
pitbulls are great dogs, there's a reason y they're called "nanny dogs;" they're great with kids. Did you know there is no dog called pitbull, pit bull is just the "slang" name given to dogs with pitbull characteristics, the dog that is commely called "pitbull" is really a Staffordshire terrier. The city of Lakewood is ridiculous they'll go after someone with a dog that they deem vicious and make them jump though hoops to prove they're not vicious or not pitbulls but they wont do anything about the drug dealers up the street. I'd rather live next to a responsible pitbull owner then a condicted sex offender who are welcome here in Lakewood with no restrictions unlike a cute frendly "pitbull" MS
Steve July 08, 2011 at 08:00 PM
lori, you must live under the same rock as meituk. yes, all dogs rule, for good owners they ARE part of the family.Your lies don't. PLEASE EDUCATE YOURSELF before you spew at the mouth your ignorance. I bet if you saw one you wouldn't even recognise a True Pit, now thats common sence...have a nice day
Steve July 08, 2011 at 08:06 PM
I couldn't agree with you more Mike. People need to educate themselves, not listen to the media that blew this out of proportion.
Peter Grossetti July 08, 2011 at 08:22 PM
Steve - not sure what you mean about the "media blowing this out of proportion." If you're talkig about this Patch article .. I think its a very accurate account of what was disccused at the July 5 City Council meeting (I was there). Patch was also at the Public Safety Committee that day which preceeded the city council meeting (yep, me,too). Patch is on the ball
Steve July 08, 2011 at 09:12 PM
Sorry Peter, by media I mean the local and national news networks always sensationalizing a news story of pit bull attacks, even when a majority were not caused by pits at all, but look alikes. Lakewood has much worse problems then FRIENDLY pitt bulls. Employment, housing, pedofiles moving in, high taxes ect. ect. ect.Your story is spot on. I probably will see you at the meeting.
Peter Grossetti July 08, 2011 at 09:17 PM
"Your story is spot on." - not mine, Patch's I agree ... mainstream media has turned everything into a high-drama circus, which is why local, grass-root news sources such as the Patch network are so vital. These venues are so valuable .. as long as a civil tone is maintained. Look forward to meeting you.
Peter Grossetti July 08, 2011 at 09:18 PM
For all who are interested .... The Lakewood Animal Safety and Welfare Advisory Board's next open meeting in July 28 - 7:00pm at City Hall. All Lakewood citizens are invited to attend.
Colin McEwen July 09, 2011 at 06:42 AM
Thanks, Peter.
Sandy July 20, 2011 at 02:49 AM
Let's get rid of the words "pit bulls" and substitute them for "animals showing dangerous anti-social behavior, such as biting." (I've known some great pit bulls too)


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