Thursday, January 15, 2009
For the first time in 12 years, the percentage of pit bulls seized by the Lucas County dog warden compared to all other breeds has decreased.
The decline, though slight, is being considered a small victory by Warden Tom Skeldon, who has fought vigorously to keep the public safe through strict enforcement and support for local and state ordinances involving vicious dogs.
Of the total dogs seized in 2008, 33.9 percent of them were pit bulls, representing a 4 percent decrease from the previous year. In total, 73 fewer pit bulls were seized last year.
"We've stopped the increase, which I think is significant," Mr. Skeldon said.
Mr. Skeldon attributes the decrease to an amendment to the city's vicious-dog ordinance Toledo City Council passed in May requiring seized pit bulls to be neutered at the owner's expense before they are returned.
"I think the neutering is a threat to people trying to breed pit bulls for sale or fighting," the dog warden said.
Wilma Brown, chairman of council's public safety committee, wrote the amendment in an effort to reduce the number of pit bulls bred for dogfighting and used for other illegal activities.
"If they're a gang member or drug dealer, they're not going to come get their [pit bull] if it's neutered," she said. "They really would be no use for them."
At a cost of $100, Mr. Skeldon said, more people than he expected have agreed to pay the fee to get their dog back, leading him to believe that those people view their pit bulls as pets rather than a source of income.
But Mr. Skeldon said a large number of people have walked away after learning of the conditions of the ordinance.
"That leads me to believe that either the cost was too high, or a dog that was neutered was no longer a dog they were interested in. It lost its economic value," Mr. Skeldon said.
Mr. Skeldon said though the amendment likely hasn't had an immediate impact on the numbers of pit bulls bred in Toledo, it has forced those who are using the dogs for illegal purposes to be more cautious.
"It appears to us that at least while we're on duty, people who have pit bulls for economic reasons thought better of how they took care of their dogs so they didn't come into our possession," he said.
The vicious-dog ordinance limits one pit bull per household and requires it to be kept on a leash and muzzled if taken off the owner's property.
"They kept them out of sight, which is fine by us," Mr. Skeldon said.
In addition to the decrease in pit bulls seized, the number of complaints received by the dog warden, citations issued, and dogs euthanized also decreased last year.
But the number of dog bites and attacks investigated by the warden's office increased from 329 in 2007 to 403 last year.
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