Blanket Rulings

Proposed legislation in the Ohio General Assembly would tie the hands of judges who now have room to make reasonable decisions when it comes to dogs that have been ruled vicious. The bill, which also would create a statewide registry of nuisance, dangerous and vicious dogs – and their owners, would require dogs classified as vicious to be euthanized. End of story.

While the reason for seeking better-defined responses to situations in which dogs are a danger to humans or other pets is a solid one, taking away judges’ ability to make up their own minds about the best way to handle such an animal is too restrictive.

As Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Kelly McGilton pointed out, judges now have options. And, in fact, the knowledge that a vicious dog will automatically be euthanized is more likely to lead to dog owners creatively making their animals “disappear” across state lines before law enforcement can come calling.

Marietta resident Carol McKitrick very rationally pointed out it could be difficult to maintain elements of the proposal. “If they create a law, you want it to be doable,” she said. It is a shame that is a novel concept for so many in government.

Belpre City law director Tom Webster said, right now, the city tries to find options that will avoid euthanasia. The city is able to handle such situations on a case-by-case basis.

McGilton said she sometimes is able to talk owners out of euthanizing dogs, by informing them of other options, such as sending dogs to more suitable environments.

All of that would be erased if this bill becomes law. Discretion will disappear in favor of blanket rulings that may not always be the right ones.

To be clear, there are certainly times when a dog deemed vicious should be put down. But it should not be up to the Ohio General Assembly to decide that is the only option, every time.