Pit Bulls Face More Euthanizations Than Other Breeds.

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Dan Rako with his family's two pit bulls Penny, in his lap, and Baker.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)
Dan Rako with his family's two pit bulls Penny, in his lap, and Baker.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)

Pit bulls or pit bull mixes in Ohio have restrictions that other breeds do not face. And because of maltreatment and over-breeding rescues and humane societies often have too many of the dogs, many that can not be adopted. WOSU takes a look at the difficulties of adopting out and owning a pit bull in Ohio.

Pit bulls or pit bull mixes that end up at the Capital Area Humane Society in Dublin have a 98 percent chance they will be euthanized. Ten have been adopted out over the last five years – ten out 634.

Rachel Finney is the director of operations at CAHS.

“The average family of four is not often looking for to find a pit bull because of the negative images associated with those breeds,” Finney said.

Ohio is the only state in the country that automatically deems as vicious pits regardless of the individual dog’s temperament or history. Among many rules owners must follow are: carry hefty liability insurance and keep the dog muzzled and on a short leash while walking. Finney said these laws hinder successful adoptions.

“This could be a perfectly lovely dog that has a great disposition, that’s great with kids, with strange adults, or strangers I should say, with other dogs, delightful temperament and yet we have to take all these extra precautions to make sure they’re safe in the public according to Ohio law,” Finney said.

Pit Bulls that enter Capital Area’s adoption program must be ambassadors of the breed and meet a long list of requirements including a history free of dog fighting. Finney said the majority of the dogs are not candidates for adoption. But when they are the application process is much more complicated than for other breeds including a home visit and a class.

“There aren’t the adopters out there to go through this process, so the overwhelming majority are euthanized here,” she said.

Shawn Webster is a veterinarian and a former state representative. Webster tried to get the breed specific language taken out of Ohio’s vicious dog statute while he was in office but to no avail. He said more attention should be paid to negligent owners.

“They let these dogs breed indiscriminately. That’s why the pounds are just loaded with pit bulls and pit bull mixes. They’re owned for the most part by irresponsible people who have no regard for the law,” Webster said.

But Webster’s not blind to the fact that some dogs are born with dominant personalities and can pose a threat to society. But he said that can happen to any breed from a Chihuahua to a Great Dane.

“To make the generalization, it’s a pit bull, it’s going to be aggressive it’s going to be a risk to society is wrong,” he said.

One of seven-year-old Claire Rako’s chores is to feed the family dogs. Two pit bulls, Penny and Baker, and a little Dachshund mix, Duchess. After fostering homes for Grey Hounds for years the Rako’s turned their attention to another breed they felt needed help the pit bull.

“I never thought I’d be one of those pit bull people. Ever,” Jill Rako said.

Jill Rako said she and her husband, Dan, adopted their first pit bull, in December 2006. Four months later they adopted another one.

The Rako’s pit bulls greet strangers, at least this one, at the door with tails wagging and tongues flopping. The dogs appear to be happy and friendly. The family said their dogs are very well-behaved. But despite their demeanor and their history of never being aggressive toward anyone Dan says people are wary of them.

“When we went to New York City, and we were taking the dogs with us, the airline would not take the dogs simply because of their breed. As far as kenneling them, locally, I know that some of them won’t, but we’ve found some that will. I know that most doggy day care places won’t take them,” Dan Rako said.

Even though the Rako’s said they’re dogs are perfectly safe, they’d be hard pressed to convince Barbara Penn, director of Animal Rescue Incorporated. Penn said she’s been working with animals for more than 30 years, and said she has had little success adopting out pit bulls. The group euthanizes any pit bulls it receives. Penn recalled a conversation she had with a family not long ago that tried to convince her pit bulls can be safe and loving dogs.

“I said when you need me, call me. I believe the day will come when you are going to need my services. It was three weeks later as this dog had attacked their child, the owner which was a lady, the husband and the neighbor,” Penn said.

Robin Laux is director of Measles’s Animal Haven Pit Bull Rescue – a group that takes in dogs that have been severely abused and mistreated. She said rehabilitating dogs is much easier than fighting stereotypes.

“We just try to do it one person at a time. I mean, even just having one of my dogs at the park with my little kids, and some little kid comes up and hugs the dog. And the mom’s like, oh, that’s a nice dog, what kind of dog is that? And I say, oh it’s a pit bull. And you just kind of see the look in their eyes. And sometimes they’ll grab their kid and jump back. But sometimes you see their perceptions changing and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Laux said.

Several local and state lawmakers tried to pass legislation last year to ban the breed altogether or stiffen current laws. None of the legislation passed.

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