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Friday, May 16, 2014

Media Bias Highlights One Problem with Fort Thomas "Breed Specific Legislation"

A correction for the erroneous report in The Cincinnati Enquirer, dated 5-15-14. While the headline was large and incorrectly identified the dog as a "pit bull," the correction was on page A7 next to the Lotto drawings. 
Fort Thomas resident and Campbell County Jailer candidate, Dave Guidugli, was interviewed recently by The Cincinnati Enquirer and Channel 12 about an incident that occurred while he was walking door to door in Fort Thomas campaigning.

He said that, while he was walking away from a house in the north end of Fort Thomas, a "pit bull" grabbed ahold of his leg and bit him.

The problem, of course, is that the dog was not a "pit bull."

The story grabbed headlines because of Guidugli's status in the community and because the word "pit bull" was in the title of the story.
The simple fact is that it is very difficult to identify a pit bull. The Enquirer got a tip through someone from Burlington, Kentucky. Second-hand information came from this person that there was "a pit bull attack" in Fort Thomas and they ran with it.  It wasn't verified. The Enquirer was fooled. So was Channel 12. These incidents occur often and it's unfair to put this burden on the those charged with enforcing the law.

According to Animal Control Officer, Terri Baker, the dog was a mixed breed and did not fall under the characteristics that the city uses to determine whether or not a dog is a pit bull.

"I thought it was a pit bull. It looked like one to me," said Guidugli.  "I don't believe any dog is born bad, it's just how it's raised.  I have many friends that have pit bulls and they are good dogs. I'm against the pit bull ban in Fort Thomas."

Click this poster to see if you can identify which of these dogs are characterized as pit bulls.

The current ordinance, which was enacted in 1988, in part states that "It is hereby determined that pit bull terriers have inherently vicious and dangerous propensities." Dr. Jean Pritchard, veterinarian at the Fort Thomas Animal Hospital, believes that the ordinance is outdated. "Changing the ordinance is overdue and it's time to stop stereotyping by breed. 25 years ago if you would have asked me my opinion on pit bulls, my opinion would be different. It's fair to say that with amount research available now, that stereotype is not true. We have to learn to evolve and change this ordinance." 

Proponents for ending the "Breed Specific Legislation" do not want to completely eliminate the ordinance. Instead they are proposing to increase the ordinance to include regulation for all dogs.
In March of 2012, Fort Thomas resident Gina Holt, was taken to the hospital after her neighbor's 150-pound Rottweiler mixed breed dog broke loose and lunged at her, unprovoked.

"I knew I didn't want an aggressive dog like this in my neighborhood, let alone two doors up. Animal Control told me that they had received several calls on this dog in the past and knew it was aggressive and was just waiting for it to hurt someone. The city was aware of all of of this. However, the law in Fort Thomas didn't allow Animal Control to prevent this dog from hurting me. Our law only bans pit bulls, whether they are dangerous or not, not dogs that demonstrate aggressive behavior. So Animal Control literally had to wait for the dog to attack someone before they could get it out of the city," said Holt.

Proponents of the new ordinance say that taking out the "breed specific" part of the dog ordinance will actually increase public safety. They want to institute amendments to the ordinance that have been proven to decrease bites. Items such as spaying and neutering, anti-tethering laws and adding an education component to public safety. And in Holt's case, if the ordinance were to regulate all dogs, not just one breed, the dog that attacked her could have been prevented.

"We all want the same thing which is more public safety. Nobody wants dogs running wild and certainly nobody wants dogs biting. The current ordinance is simply a placebo effect and does nothing to increase public safety," said Fort Thomas resident, Alison Head. "If there is a dangerous dog, regardless of breed, the same ordinance would apply to them. Make it about the owner, not the dog."

"It's a common sense solution," said Guidugli. "I try to run my campaign that way."

Was The Enquirer deliberately trying to sensationalize the story to get more coverage? According to the author of the story, that was not the case. "I was horrified," said Terry DeMio via Twitter, who wrote the story. An edit on the story was done on the digital version as soon as the mistake was realized. A print retraction was run the day after the mistake, albeit very small compared to the headline.


  1. Great story Mark. We need to have an ordinance that does not discriminate and provides public safety and protects the dogs from negligent and abusive owners.

  2. So.... do you want YOUR child to be bitten by a 'pit Bull"? I don't, anymore than I want them bitten by any other animal... pit bites tend to be more severe and destructive.... where do you get this info you ask??? Years as a pediatric ER and Trauma RN at Cincinnati Children's gave me more than my share of first hand involvement with bites from Pits, small "lap dogs" and what would be classified as mutts... hands down the power and strength of the Pit inflicted more devastating injuries every time. Do your own research through academic journals rather than through the news or hearsay. Are all dogs bad? Absolutely not, it is in how they are raised, but am I willing to take the chance that your pit bull terrier was raised in a loving caring home full of kids.... No I am not.

  3. Thank you for shedding light on this matter, and thanks to Dave Guidugli for helping to set the matter straight. Hopefully the city of Fort Thomas will see to intelligently enacting some common sense legislation that addresses all vicious dogs and does not single out a specific breed.
    The answer in preventing all vicious animal attacks lies in promoting responsible pet ownership. Period.

  4. Enlightening and informative. A well needed perspective for those of us fairly unfamiliar with the issue. I hope you have forwarded copies to Channel 12 and the Enquirer.

  5. @ Ft. Thomas Dad. I'm glad you mentioned working at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Your colleague at CCH, Dr. Dixon, has specialities listed as: Pediatric injury prevention; global health injury prevention and trauma care; dog bite prevention.

    She has done numerous articles in academic journals which show that the breed of the dog does not determine if it will bite.

    Of course a bigger dog will inflict more damage than a smaller one, but if that is the logic you are choosing, we should also be banning other big dogs. I'll cite 2 other breeds that have been targeted in the past - the German Shepard and the Rottweiler - which are both legal in Fort Thomas.

    Comparing the bite pressure of several breeds showed pressure PSI (per square inch) to be considerably lower than your anecdotal evidence that you cite.

    Testing has shown that the domestic dog averages about 320 lbs of pressure per square inch. The Pit Bull had the LOWEST PSI OF THE THREE. The highest pressure recorded from the Pit Bull was 235 lbs PSI. The highest from the GSD was 238, and the highest from the Rott was 328.

    Not to mention a much higher score in the temperament test than 121 other breeds, including the Golden Retriever.

    Dr. Dixon bio and academic papers:

    American Temperament Test Society Statistics:

  6. Completely agree with most of the comments above. Truthfully, this is just about exposure, as is most things in life.

    If you are exposed to these breeds of dogs you know that their behavior is based on how they are raised, not unlike children.

    These dogs can be as gentile as any other dog and Fort Thomas is truly behind the times on this issue. It's a shame that those who know the truth about these dogs will not even consider Fort Thomas. I wonder if officials have considered missing out on that demo that won't live here because of this outdated ordinance. Are we missing out on higher home prices due to a depressed demand. Granted, the demand for FT homes is great, but it COULD be better.

    Very short-sighted by the city, in my opinion.

    Not to mention the city opening itself up to litigation for not doing what it can to protect its residents about other dogs and instituting measures that ACTUALLY decrease bites and conversely increase public safety.

  7. Even when i proved the breed of my dog on assesmentom more than one occasion. Terri Baker. Still proceededtio harass me about my dog even after she hae spoken to my vet and learning or my dogs breed. Today had a Terri Baker harass me again saying that information obtained from my vet by her wad not good enough for her called police on enound had police try to sieze my dog saying my vets assesment was not good enough or valid. This is just due to her as she said looks like a pit bull to me attitude. This is wrong due to the facts saying otherwards from my vet.